The decline of trust in social networking platforms

The UK is increasingly well connected, however it is seeing a wave of distrust across all major communications channels (mobile, fixed and social networking) due to fears surrounding security threats such as viruses, spam and phishing attacks, according to new research released by Cloudmark.

The survey analyzed the mobile, fixed-line and social networking habits of 1,000 UK consumers, as well as their exposure to security threats and sentiment towards messaging abuse experienced on these platforms.

Mobile loses trust and momentum

The survey found that 19.1 per cent of participants viewed SMS as being a less secure channel than a year ago. In general, the ubiquity of SMS texting seems to engender a higher level of trust among users in comparison to alternative channels.

This is particularly true among the younger generation, with roughly one-third (35.1 per cent) of 18-24 year olds and one-third (31.8 per cent) of 25-34 year olds naming it as the platform they deem the most secure. However, trust in this channel appears to decline with age, with just 14 per cent of the 55+ demographic citing it as the most secure platform.

The mobile and retail sectors could see a significant barrier to mass m-commerce adoption unless the security threats experienced across the mobile platform are addressed – currently over half (52.3 per cent) of Britons claim that they do not have enough trust in the security of their mobile device to use it to pay for goods and services.

As might be expected, the level of trust in m-payments was highest among the younger age groups, with over three quarters (77.3 per cent) of 18-24 year olds and 61.7 per cent of 25-34 year olds stating that they had a sufficient level of trust in the security to pay via mobile.

Social networking suffers a blow

Not surprisingly mobile social networking appears to be gaining significant traction, with over half (51.7 per cent) of 18-24 year olds and 41.1per cent of 25-34 year olds naming it as the communications platform they access most regularly.

However, in spite of its popularity, trust in the platform seemingly continues to decline: with almost one quarter of participants (22 per cent) stating they are increasingly disillusioned with instant messaging services, and 38.4 per cent claim to have less trust in social networks’ security.

A mere 3.2 per cent named it as the platform they trusted the most, the least of all platforms, while over two-thirds (38.4 per cent) stated that they have less trust in the security of social networking than they did a year ago. In addition, social networking websites are second only to email as the platform on which consumers have experienced security threats most frequently on (15.9 per cent).

Email versus mobile

45 per cent of participants said that they had less trust in the security of email as a communication channel than they did 12 months ago. While the proliferation of malicious attacks via mobile devices remains less widespread than fixed, the difference in trust from consumers between email and mobile is somewhat telling.

The findings indicate that the mobile channel is facing more difficulty in reassuring customers of the security of services offered across this platform. With email traffic yielding a higher percentage of messaging abuse overall in comparison to the mobile channel and mobile messaging abuse, the percentage of respondents that noticed a decline in the security of their mobile network suggests that mobile spam, phishing and other related security threats may become an even bigger problem than that seen in email.

Fraud-related messaging abuse remains the number one form of security threat across all platforms. However, as expected, more respondents (63.3 per cent) have been victimised by fraud and spam across the email channel as opposed to 13.1 per cent of mobile users who have suffered the same type of abuse across the mobile channel.

Despite the high profile of email and desktop threats in recent years, 79 per cent of Britons have experienced a security threat on their desktop or PC. Just over half (52 per cent) of these were due to a malicious virus while almost a third (31.1 per cent) have seen phishing attacks over email or instant messaging while online.

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