The mobile gender gap prevails, trust is down, and rightly so with IoT DDoS attacks growing fivefold

07 August 2023

Amy Saunders, editor,
Southern African Wireless Communications

Amy Saunders, editor,
Southern African Wireless Communications

In its sixth annual Mobile Gender Gap Report, the GSMA said that more than 100 million women must adopt mobile internet each year between now and 2030 to close the distance to male users, with parity requiring 800 million women to get online. The GSMA’s research centres on low- and middle-income nations in Africa, APAC, and Latin America.

It noted 61% of women in the target nations used mobile internet services at end-2022, but highlighted a slowdown in adoption, with 60 million new users compared with 75 million in 2021. The research highlighted 900 million women in the countries remained unconnected by end-2022, the majority located in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

Awareness and use of mobile internet services by women are almost on-par with men once they are equipped with a smartphone, but the GSMA noted 440 million women do not own any kind of mobile phone. The GSMA highlighted affordability, particularly of handsets, remained a barrier to mobile internet adoption, along with digital literacy and skills, and safety and security concerns.

The GSMA reports that, to “fully address the issue,” internet companies, governments, regulators, and developers must increase their focus and take “targeted action.”

In other news, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 9th annual Global Trust Report finds that consumer trust in data sharing is weak and abstinence levels are increasing. Most mobile users have some level of concern about remaining in control of the data they share. Only 12% say they do not worry about this. Yet most are not achieving true control over the data they share with apps and services.

The top three factors that consumers say provide a sense of control all centre around abstaining from sharing information where the user does not feel comfortable. This isn’t true control, and it presents a challenge for the mobile industry as it makes it difficult to build new data-based technology like AI, recommendation engines, advertising, or mobile intelligence.

“The number of trojans targeting personal banking information in mobile devices has doubled to 9%, putting millions of users around the world at heightened risk of having their personal financial and credit card information stolen.”

Despite the concerns consumers have about data sharing, there is only muted interest in personal information management systems. The general feeling is that the tech companies should protect their data and privacy, not the consumer should have to take control themselves.

The key findings are that trust in data sharing is weak; increased mobile use is accompanied by heightened data sharing concerns; users still lack knowledge of tools and services that could help them; data abstinence is how users assert control; social media and big tech and driving concerns; and muted interest in personal information management systems.

The report also offers some key lessons for the mobile ecosystem industry, including not to be complacent; systems built on data are at risk of underperforming or failing; users still need to take more active control; dramatize benefits beyond addressing risk; and social media giants must show care for users, not just data.

“Nothing is clearer than the words and actions of mobile users. Trust in data sharing is weak. Yet, there are surprising elements in that many users are finding that their perception of an immediate threat is much reduced,” said Dario Betti, CEO of MEF. “There is a form of decay in the system that is not easy to view from a distance – data abstinence. The quantity and quality of information that is shared in the system is deteriorating. The study shows that 67% of users globally, avoid sharing their personal data, and only 12% of users say that they do not worry about control of their data.”

Meanwhile, the latest Nokia Threat Intelligence Report has found that IoT botnet Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) traffic, originating from many insecure IoT devices with the aim of disrupting telecom network services for millions of users, increased fivefold over the past year.

This sharp increase, also supplemented by the increased use of IoT devices by consumers around the world, was first noticed at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict but has since spread to other parts of the world, with botnet-driven DDoS attacks being used to disrupt telecom networks as well as other critical infrastructure and services. The number of IoT devices (bots) engaged in botnet-driven DDoS attacks rose from around 200,000 a year ago to approximately 1 million devices, generating more than 40% of all DDoS traffic today. The most common malware in telecommunication networks was found to be a bot malware that scans for vulnerable devices, a tactic associated with a variety of IoT botnets.

The report also found that the number of trojans targeting personal banking information in mobile devices has doubled to 9%, putting millions of users around the world at heightened risk of having their personal financial and credit card information stolen.

“The key findings in this report underline both the scale and sophistication of cybercriminal activity today,” said Hamdy Farid, senior vice president, business applications at Nokia. “A single botnet DDoS attack can involve hundreds of thousands of IoT devices, representing a significant threat to networks globally. To mitigate the risks, it’s essential that service providers, vendors, and regulators work to develop more robust 5G network security measures, including implementing telco-centric threat detection and response, as well as robust security practices and awareness at all company levels.”