AT&T has created a snazzy infographic to warn users of the dangers of mobile botnets, illustrating the need for its security efforts.  (Source: AT&T)
New malware protection will be sourced through Juniper

It's hard to hear about AT&T Inc. (T) these days without automatically jumping to the topic of the company's controversial planned acquisition of rival network Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA.  However, AT&T is giving the tech community something else to talk about, announcing an unparalleled security drive [press release] on its network's smartphones.

AT&T had a rough year last year, security-wise.  You may recall that in June 2010 "Goatse Security" exploited a gaping vulnerability in AT&T web servers to obtain basic information on 114,000+ of AT&T's iPad customers.  Just weeks later, AT&T accidentally spilled information on iPhone 4 customers due to a technical glitch.

But AT&T appears to be finally turning the corner when it comes to security, and part of that is thanks to its recruiting outside help.  It’s teaming up with Sunnyvale, California-based security and networking firm Juniper Networks (JNPR) to provide security solutions to both its business and its individual smartphone users.

Mark Bauhaus, executive vice president and general manager of the Device and Network Services business group at Juniper Networks, describes, "We are proud to work with AT&T to help them protect their most important asset, their customers. Teaming with AT&T to bring this unique and comprehensive mobile security solution to market will enable a vast number of consumers and enterprises to have state-of-art security features in their mobile life and be better protected from malicious threats."

For consumers, the first of those state-of-the-art security features will be a smartphone application which will come with "anti-virus, anti-malware, and application monitoring and control."  AT&T said the app would be available later this year. The app is based on Juniper Networks' Junos Pulse software, which is currently available on Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android OS and Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS.  It's unclear whether the software will be available this year with handsets running Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Phone 7.

The free anti-malware offering is a welcome improvement as infected Android phones have begun to be used in botnets and malware has popped up on Apple's iPhone, as well.

In addition to individual users, AT&T and Juniper Networks will offer a business suite to boost the security and manageability of business handsets.  The suite will include:

  • Maintain compliance with government regulations
  • Enforce security policies
  • Manage personal or enterprise-owned devices
  • Enable anti-virus, anti-malware, and application monitoring and control

IDC senior security analyst Christine Liebert praised the business offering, stating, "Enterprises drive employee productivity by anytime access to network resources, but the implications of data loss and malware proliferation creates real concerns for enterprise IT security. AT&T’s vision and approach to mobile security is the right one at the right time."

"AT&T is offering enterprises the ability to remotely remove or encrypt data on mobile devices and to have this function centrally administered. This should help businesses control what type of data can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet, one of the biggest enterprise security risks."

AT&T is currently the nation's second most expensive network, when it comes to most plans, behind only Verizon Wireless (VZ).  If it's going to keep prices higher, it's nice to see that it's at least giving customers more bang for their buck.  Between better security and better coverage than some smaller, cheaper networks, AT&T may just convince some customers to jump onboard with its higher prices.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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