Users often don't give a second thought to adding virus protection and other security software on their PCs because it's been proven essential, but as smartphones advance both in capability and as a target for the bad guys, ABI Research said you can expect a big increase in sales of mobile security solutions.

"Although malware has been seen in mobile handsets, in the past it has not done much damage," ABI Research vice president Stan Schatt said in a statement. "But smartphones have access to more sensitive data every year, and security must be tightened to prevent the theft or loss of important business information."

In its Mobile Device Security report, ABI Research said enterprises with mobile workforces have growing concerns about lost and stolen handsets, due to the increasing amount of data stored on a typical smartphone. In some cases, it's a matter of compliance. Organizations that deal with financial data, health care information, or personal identification such as social security numbers have to comply with several regulatory requirements (such as HIPAA, GISRA, and SEC) for protecting data, wherever it is stored.


The research firm predicts future handsets will come with preloaded antivirus software clients to prevent the loss of data to malware. You can also expect to see mobile banking and person-to-person payments authenticated by fingerprint sensors on the handset and new services that allow IT to remotely lock a handset, erase its data, or locate it.

All this leads ABI to predict sales of mobile security will exceed $4 billion by 2014.

Companies such as Sybase (NYSE: SY) already offer mobile device management software that works across different brands, and ABI expects that market to expand. Large enterprises will buy mobile device management platforms to use within their IT departments, and smaller enterprises or even consumers will use managed security services, as wireless carriers increasingly offer security services to their customers, the research firm said.

But wider adoption of mobile security solutions may well require an education process. A recent survey of 100 European IT executives, for example, found that most companies didn't know how much sensitive data is shared and housed on employees' mobile devices. The issue is complicated by the use of mobile devices bought by employees without their employer's approval.

David Needle is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.