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Few smartphone owners take security seriously

A Google homepage is displayed on a Motorola Droid phone in Washington August 15, 2011. Google Inc will buy phone hardware maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc for $12.5 billion to bolster adoption of its Android mobile software, and compete with smartphone rival Apple Inc. In its biggest deal to date, Google said it would pay $40 per share in cash, a 63 percent premium to Motorola Mobility's Friday closing price on the New York Stock Exchange. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCI TECH BUSINESS)
A Google homepage is displayed on a Motorola Droid phone in Washington August 15, 2011. Google Inc will buy phone hardware maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc for $12.5 billion to bolster adoption of its Android mobile software, and compete with smartphone rival Apple Inc. In its biggest deal to date, Google said it would pay $40 per share in cash, a 63 percent premium to Motorola Mobility's Friday closing price on the New York Stock Exchange. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCI TECH BUSINESS)KEVIN LAMARQUE / Reuters

Nearly 40 percent of smartphone users say they're worries about security, including harmful apps, malicious emails and having their locations tracked and activities monitored. But 82 percent of them are not using security apps for their cellphones.

The figures are from The NPD Group's report, "Emerging Technology Trends: Mobile Security," released Wednesday, which found that while iPhone and Android smartphone users "share similar security concerns, 30 percent of Android smartphone owners have installed security products, compared to just 6 percent of iPhone owners."

One reason for the difference: Google's Android operating system is, by design, more open in terms of app development compared to Apple's iPhone. Although certainly, the iPhone is not invulnerable to security woes.

As msnbc.com's Wilson Rothman wrote earlier this year:

For Android, the danger is downloading apps outside of Google's App Market (or other reputable app stores such as Amazon's). If you're off somewhere getting apps from sources you don't know or trust, there could be consequences. For iPhone users, the line really is whether you jailbreak or not. Jailbreaking can be pretty easy, and getting pirated or bootlegged apps can seem like a great way to save money, but in doing so, you're basically handing out the smartphone equivalent of a front door key to Lord only knows.

"Even though iPhone users are less concerned than Android users about device security, they are still clearly worried," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD, in a statement. "Their biggest concerns were much more likely to be fears that their iPhone would be stolen or damaged, than any unwanted or harmful activities."

NPD's findings are based on online surveys done in July with a "representative sample of 1,085 panelists from NPD's online panel. Results were balanced to represent the U.S. adult population."

About 25 percent of smartphone owners who don't have security apps or software for their phones felt such products were "too expensive; yet among those owners with security products installed, 75 percent paid nothing, and the mean price paid was less than $3," Baker said.

You don't have to buy security apps to be more secure. Simple steps to start with are checking whether location-sharing is on or on off on your smartphone, and using the cellular service for email and Web browsing, vs. Wi-Fi, which is more vulnerable unless you've taken steps to shore it up.

Anthony Stramella, with the National Security Agency's Threat Operations Center, takes the issue seriously. The official said this week at a conference that he doesn't have a smartphone; he uses a cheapie cellphone that does only one thing: make phone calls.

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