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

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.