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Symbian loophole 'threatens operator revenue'

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

New mobile devices based on a version of the Symbian OS are a serious threat to mobile operator revenue streams, according to consultancy Mako Analysis. Savvy users can use devices running on Symbian's Series 60 operating system (OS) to completely bypass a range of services that are normally charged for by their mobile operator, the UK-based consultancy warned on Monday. While the threat is currently minimal, the loophole has the potential to cause major headaches for operators.

"The increasing sophistication of high-end mobile devices opens up a range of additional problems and will continue to undermine the data revenue streams of mobile operators at a time when they desperately need them to be increasing," a Mako spokesperson said.

Mako Analysis highlighted a selection of devices that are currently available on the market, including the Nokia 6600, N-Gage and Sony Ericsson models P800 and P900, that allow an entire range of new revenue- generating services to be installed on the device.

"As with any new device feature," the spokesperson continued, "it will eventually infiltrate into medium and low-end terminals, in the case of practically every other advancement this would be welcomed. This historical approach has lead us to blindly encourage the addition of increasingly sophisticated devices throughout the range, in the case of open platform operating systems our approach surely has to be one of caution."

The Symbian Series 60 OS works in a similar fashion to a Microsoft Windows PC. The user can install new applications and software while also uploading a range of consumer content such as ringtones and Java games.

From such simple content to complete service offerings such as mobile music or instant messaging, an open OS can bypass, and therefore potentially eliminate, any revenue from these services, according to Mako.

As one example, if a consumer has a Symbian Series 60 device, there are several MP3 players that can be downloaded to their device for a small, one-off fee. Once they have the player on the device, MP3 tracks can be moved over to the phone's memory card for free by using Bluetooth, infrared or a USB connection cable.

"Given the widespread knowledge of acquiring or creating MP3's free of charge," Mako warns, "particularly in the youth segments that are being targeted by mobile operators, the potential to bypass mobile operator solutions is significant."

© ENN

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