Mobile World Congress Tech Trends, Security Fail

The last day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), held in Barcelona, Spain, this year, certainly marked success for the yearly event. But even with the largest mobile industry exhibition, the congress earned bad publicity for a striking oversight – a sore lack of security. Security today, especially in the mobile industry, has become one of the key considerations. The convention successfully highlighted the top trends in mobile tech, but also unwittingly revealed the prevalent disregard for security that plagues the industry.

Mobile World Congress Highlights

The 2016 Mobile World Congress came to a close on February 26 logging over 2,200 company participants and more than 100,000 individual attendees. These contributors together brought to the convention the biggest exposition yet for mobile tech in the world. The top tech trends that emerged at the congress were the expected smartphones, wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT), and also new ideas for environmentally friendly tech.

The future of smartphone technology as exhibited during the convention is an exciting one. We saw new modular and transparent designs from LG and Samsung, both industry leaders in the mobile market. Featured products were the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 series with design elements like card slots for power users. Wearable tech is also booming with so many new gadgets for on the go users with features from convenient activity tracking with sync to comfortable high definition virtual reality.

IoT is probably the most watched of all mobile trends, and the MWC did not disappoint. A pavilion of the congress was dedicated to IoT and showcased a wide range of business models. The new smart systems address the need for improving processes, including costs, while reducing the associated risks that have been discovered. With the ability to communicate via data transmitters and embedded sensors, these new smart devices have boosted the financial, insurance, health, and manufacturing sectors. They also promise to bring cost and processing advantages to other sectors this year for a continuing boost to the global economy. Andrus Ansip, Vice President of the European Commission, was quoted as saying that he expects more than 26 billion devices to be connected to the Internet in the next 5 years. Many of these will be smartphones, with at least 70% of the world’s population able to own one by the year 2020.

Going green is nothing new, but it has become a bigger trend in recent years because of the increase in environmental pollutants that are a result of our world’s fast development. Naturally, tech companies have put more focus on the design and manufacture of green products. The 2016 MWC opened a Green Stand Award program to identify and reward companies with the best green technology. Several companies both big and small presented their ideas for environmentally friendly power sources and devices.

Security Bust

Golden Frog, the company behind top VPN VyprVPN, participated in the MWC to talk about privacy and security for the mobile industry. Avast was also present at the convention, and had an interesting supplementary purpose. A team of researchers from the security software provider performed an experiment on the participants at the event.

The Avast security research team set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots at the Barcelona Airport in anticipation of the mass arrival of MWC guests. The networks were set up close to the MWC registration booths at the airport to attract guests with their strong Wi-Fi signals. They were given SSIDs according to cybercriminal best practices to encourage confidence, such as “Airport_Free_Wifi_AENA”, “MWC Free WiFi”, and “Starbucks”.

The security researchers wanted to test the security practices of the participants and attendees, and they certainly made a strong point about proper mobile safety. The team conducted a Wi-Fi hack via these bogus hotspots to reveal the irresponsible attitudes of people regarding security. By February 22, they were ready to present their discouraging findings. Many who were traveling to the convention brought their smartphones, of course, for convenience. Avast monitored as thousands of them carelessly connected to the fake hotspots, and showed how easy it was to expose and track their browsing activities.

In a matter of only 4 hours, the team had already counted over 2,000 connections and seen more than 8 million data packets from these users. Avast reported what device types the guests were using, who had Facebook, Twitter and dating apps installed on their devices, and what websites they visited. In almost two-thirds of the cases, the team was also able to see the identities of the devices and their owners. The data was of course only scanned for the purpose of the experiment and not logged to protect the participants’ privacy. MWC attendees were then provided the opportunity to see the results of the experiment conducted at the Avast booth where the company’s SecureLine VPN was featured. It was a strong dose of reality that had a striking effect against the MWC backdrop of security as a top mobile trend.

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