With NFC gathering momentum, the use of modern mobile phones to simplify and add convenience to tasks such as banking and shopping is here to stay. However, with the majority of mobile users still slow to consider security for a handheld, many could be leaving their financial details vulnerable to third party attack.

A recent survey showed that 24% of internet users banked online from their mobile device, and many also admitted to storing sensitive data such as bank details, credit card numbers, URLs, logins and passwords and saved PIN numbers as reminders. All of this could potentially be exploited by third parties either by a malware infection or if the phone were lost or stolen and fell into the wrong hands.

It appears as though modern mobile users are quick to appreciate the convenience and easy access to services offered from handhelds but slow to recognise the potential threat to smartphones in a time when mobile malware on some platforms has risen by up to 400% in the last six months.

It is concerning that mobile users are storing such sensitive data, but even more concerning is that the survey revealed many consumers seem apathetic about the potential dangers of mobile use at present, ignoring even the most basic security measures.

The survey revealed that 62% opted against using a basic PIN or password to protect a phone from being instantly accessed by others – a simple yet effective way to deter many thieves or novice hackers. When it comes to more sophisticated protective measures, 53% were unaware that dedicated mobile security is available, 21% believed it isn’t necessary and 42% had not considered using it.

It is clear from the survey results that more needs to be done to educate mobile phone users on the risks and potential dangers of storing personal and sensitive data and leaving phones unprotected. 27% of those polled have had their mobile phone lost or stolen in the past and 55% of respondents were still unaware that a phone can contract a virus.

Security software is the best preventative measure against third party security threats, particularly when considering the prevalence of spyware, which is almost impossible to spot without dedicated software and according to a survey by Juniper Networks, accounted for 61% of all infections in 2010.

What consumers need to be made aware of is that many mobile threats go undetected. Some attacks are specifically designed to “mine data” from a phone without the user’s knowledge, which could be disastrous if this were to include sensitive information such as financial data or secure documents.

When it comes to emerging technologies with more direct application such as NFC, consumers are rightly demonstrating more caution, which could be a sign that the security dangers posed by mobile devices will soon be taken more seriously. When quizzed about the new payment standard, 59% were concerned that sensitive data could be intercepted, 64% were concerned about the security of this data in the event of loss or theft and 54% were worried about third parties accessing their bank or credit card details.