In an industry faced with tightening margins, network owners and operators must invest in network security measures to safeguard their bottom lines

Operators need to sharpen their focus on network security to stay ahead of the increasing threat from cyber criminals, according to a recent report.

The report, published by Evolved Intelligence and Mobilesquared, surveyed more than 2,000 customers in the UK and Germany.

Following a number of high profile attacks on telecoms operators earlier this year, the report examines customer attitudes to network security. Speaking exclusively to Total Telecom, Evolved Intelligence’s product director Steve Buck said that the industry was only now beginning to realise the potential scale of the problem.

"I think that historically the operators have underestimated the scale of the problem. I think that they probably thought that cyber-attacks are isolated incidents that only happen every now and again," he said.

While operators now understand that an attack could severely impact upon their physical and financial operations, Buck believes that the industry is still dragging its feet on cyber security.  

"I think that they acknowledge that there is a real risk that someone high profile will be attacked but I think that previously they had thought that risk was OK to take. It wasn’t something that they needed to buy an insurance policy for," he added.

The difficulty facing cyber security firms is being able to convince operators to invest sufficiently in an industry where margins are already tight.

"I think operators are finding it hard to build a business case because margins are so tight. The problem is that [network security] is not something that you can advertise very easily to the end user. You can advertise on price, or on the speed of your network, but how do you advertise that your network is secure when people already assumed that it was secure to begin with? Essentially, it’s a hygiene factor – it’s not something that customers want to pay for but they expect it to be there," he explained.  

The report has some harsh lessons for operators who fail to adequately protect their customers from attacks.

Of customers who had been a victim of a data breach attack, 33% opted to change their network provider as a result.

"With knowledge of the threat, many consumers would rank network security second, only behind price, when choosing a mobile operator. What’s more, the numbers who would switch service providers, stop using services or cut back on usage after a network attack, make for very sober reading," said Buck.