Scared Yet? AT&T Hopes to Charge for Smartphone Security

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AT&T can’t wait for us to be scared enough to be willing to pay for security services on our smartphones. In an interview with Reuters, John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions (the company’s enterprise division) said his company has had a hard time charging consumers for security services, in part because they aren’t yet sufficiently frightened about the risk of attack.

The executive told Reuters that his company would be rolling out for-fee consumer security services in 2012, noting that such services have been available to Enterprise for some time. He also noted that he has seen a big spike in security attacks on smartphones, adding that, “”Hackers always go to where there’s a base of people to attack.”

He believes that subscription-based antivirus services will become as, ” relevant in the mobile space as [they are] today in the desktop,” but that consumers have so far been less-than-interested in paying for such services.

“When you start asking them what’s your willingness to pay for a solution, if they’re not a little frightened, their willingness to pay is nothing,” Mr. Stankey said. “It’ll take a little time for this in the mass market.”

Fortunately for AT&T, Mr. Stankey believes that consumers will become more aware of the dangers available to them over the next year, with the implied message being that we will then be ready to fork up for protection.

The executive’s comments were about smartphones in general, and both iPhones and Android devices were covered by the scope of the interview. But it was not clear what kind of services would be rolled out come 2012, nor on which platform(s) they would be offered.

Heretofore, Apple has nominally been in charge of security on the iPhone — the company controls access to apps, the OS, and the firmware that controls the device. It’s possible, however, that AT&T and other carriers could offer some security services that sit between the carrier’s data transmission and the user.

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15 Comments Leave Your Own

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I see what you did there Bryan.

webjprgm

Yes I’m scared ... of AT&T finding yet another way to charge consumers. 

(And that they might deliberately create viruses/attacks, or at least open up to them, to make consumers pay for these services.)

Bryan Chaffin

I wasn’t trying to dig a Android, Brad.  I’m just not sure how AT&T could charge for services on the iPhone. Background apps running in stasis mode means that antivirus software would have to be embedded in the OS, which is Apple’s domain.

If they developed an app you could run in the foreground, it would have to be sold through the App Store, and I find it difficult to imagine Apple allowing that. Plus, what would such an app have access to?

These factors don’t apply to Android, and I can’t help but imagine that AT&T sees that platform as providing more opportunity for earning some protection cash.

We don’t know what they are thinking yet, and in any event, nothing I wrote in the article or in this comment is intended to be a slight on Android. It’s about the lack of opportunities for these kinds of services due to Apple’s control over the platform.

The only thing I can imagine is, as I wrote in the article, some kind of service that sits between the carrier’s network and the end-user. That could conceivably be valuable to end-users.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Haha. I was just talking about Mr. Stankey’s name. Strangely appropriate.

mhikl

Ya, that was obvious. Not!.
Also obviously not a stretch. Not!
Another quagmire of kerfuffle.
Being a friend means never having to say your sorry.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Being a friend means never having to say your sorry.

I guess I can’t win. To reinforce the point, I was going to make a joke about how Mr. Stankey got the job over one Ms. Peggy Fokker because the BOD was concerned about that customers would snicker at her name. But I was afraid the pants wetter would think I was talking about his Mom.

To be clear. I’m not talking about the pants wetter’s Mom. I’m cracking a joke about Stankey’s totally overly appropriate name.

Mikuro

He believes that subscription-based antivirus services will become as, ? relevant in the mobile space as [they are] today in the desktop,?

Well, for me that means “not relevant at all”, so let’s hope so! raspberry

RonMacGuy

Wow a low snark directed at a mom!  BNB is hitting an all-time low…  BNB’s mom has got to be ashamed…

mhikl

Hey Bosco, I am definitely out of the link on that one. I have enough trouble keeping straight who runs Apple, Google and M$. My friends have me figured out and each knows when to turn when I say “Hey you”.

But you’ve made it clearer, sort of.

Bryan Chaffin

Haha. I was just talking about Mr. Stankey?s name. Strangely appropriate.

Oops, I was clearly being overly defensive! I had been concerned about the article’s wording, and then when I read your comment, Brad, I feared I hadn’t been careful enough.

But yeah, Mr. Stankey. He’ll have to console himself with the hundreds of thousands of dollars more than me that he makes. smile

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

But yeah, Mr. Stankey. He?ll have to console himself with the hundreds of thousands of dollars more than me that he makes.

If he goes ahead with his mobile anti-virus initiative, you’ll have nothing to envy, Bryan. Look at what Microsoft has done with Security Essentials on the Windows platform, and they don’t exercise near the level of control there that Apple does over iOS. Competing AV products on Windows are no longer about security. They’re about signaling that you’re concerned enough to install AV bloatware on your system. Read a strikingly similar (in my mind) evaluation of acceptance of crop insurance by poor third world farmers. The author, Robin Hanson, has a big thesis about how people signal their concerns through their purchases. Ultimately, that’s what Stankey wants his customers to do, because the threat he describes just isn’t there, and what real threats are there just aren’t something that AT&T can address with any distinguishing value.

Bryan Chaffin

Agreed, Brad.

vpndev

I don’t understand why they made such an announcement.

It clearly signals that AT&T no longer has a close carrier relationship with Apple, or is at least distancing itself from Apple.

Maybe this is not the message that they intended to convey but it’s pretty clear to us outsiders. AT&T is history.

Lee Dronick

I don?t understand why they made such an announcement.

It clearly signals that AT&T no longer has a close carrier relationship with Apple, or is at least distancing itself from Apple.

Maybe this is not the message that they intended to convey but it?s pretty clear to us outsiders. AT&T is history.

I didn’t take that from his interview. However, it is coming up on 9:00 PM and I have been awake since 4:00 AM so maybe I need to reread it in the morning.

VaughnSC

What I just don’t get how anyone accepts or markets the notion of ‘security’ as some value-added ‘convenience’ you must pay for separately.

This manufacturing of fear leaves much to be desired. It would be a better world if they busted their asses to make ‘trust’ a built-in feature.

IMHO this guy Starkey ranks lower than a snake for tossing this out as if it were an acceptable business stratagem.

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