Joseph Umunakwe is the General Manager, HMD Global: West, East and Central Africa. In this interview, he spoke to TechEconomy.ng on why Nigerians need to be conscious of online threats, as well as how HMD Global ensures that Nokia smartphones protect users from malicious software.
Q: There have been growing concerns about data security on some smartphone brands in the Nigerian market. Tell us about this.
Umunakwe: Yes, you are right and I’m glad you raised that point. In the last few weeks, there have been several reports on click-fraud malware causing security threats on some phone brands in the market. According to the reports, those smartphones were preinstalled with harmful malware which download subscription apps and sign users up for paid services without their knowledge. An investigation by Secure-D, a mobile phone security service, reported that between March and December of 2019 alone, its technology blocked over 844,000 transactions linked to preinstalled malware. So, yes, smartphone users in Nigeria have every reason to be worried about their data security, especially with the new realities imposed by Covid-19, forcing most people to rely on their Smartphones for day to day commercial transactions.
Q: How is your company, HMD Global, ensuring that Nokia smartphones are free from these security threats?
Umunakwe: At HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, we have always been advocates of smartphone security. This is why an integral part of our proposition is to offer our consumers smartphones that are Pure, Secure and up to date.
We bring one of the most secure Android experiences to the market by delivering regular software and security updates to ensure peace of mind for Nokia smartphone customers.
By being one of the only smartphone manufacturers to bring the benefits of regular software updates across all our range of Nokia smartphones, we are constantly shielding you from malware and other security threats.
This is one of the things that set Nokia phones apart from others, in that we take the issue of security very seriously and have been committed to this from the very beginning.
Q: Specifically, what do you think are the risks of malware attacks/security threats for the Nigerian smartphone users?
Umunakwe: Cyber security threats are real and significant in today’s world. Malware attacks can cause many problems for Nigerians, especially those who use smartphones that cannot protect them from these threats. This is a headache that Nokia smartphone users will not have to experience because our devices offer regular security updates that will protect you from malicious software and other online threats.
In terms of specific risks, malware and online security threats could disrupt the operations of your smartphones, steal sensitive information from your phone, allow unauthorized access to system resources, slow operating speed, as well as freezing/crashing. Nokia smartphones offer pure and safe Android experiences across our range of devices. We ensure that the Android version is up-to-date and secure, thereby, protecting you from malware risks.
Q: You mentioned something about pure and safe Android experiences on Nokia smartphones, tell us more about this.
Umunakwe: Yes. At HMD Global, what we offer on all our smartphone devices is what we like to call Pure, Secure and up-to-date Android. I will explain this and how it helps consumers. When we say “Pure”, what we mean is Android in its original form, the way Google intended it to be, with no preinstalls or skin. This means that we are not clogging your phone with unnecessary apps that you won’t need. We give you the choice to pick the applications that you want on your smartphones. Interestingly, research by F-Secure Consulting, reviewing flagship smartphones, found that pre-loaded applications in handsets with custom Android skins can create flaws and gaps that can be taken advantage of for malicious intent. This you don’t have to worry about with Nokia smartphones.
By “secure”, we are referring to the fact that we offer monthly security updates on all our range of Nokia smartphones. What this means is that every month, we give you free security updates in a bid to ensure that you are safe from any real or potential vulnerabilities that may have been identified in the OS.
By “up-to-date”, what we are saying is that our phones will launch on the latest Android version to keep you ahead of the game. And across our entire smartphone portfolio, we are committed to providing you with two years of Android platform upgrades. For instance, the new devices we announced keep to this promise. Nokia 2.4, Nokia 3.4 and Nokia 8.3 5G come with Android 10, and are Android 11 and Android 12 ready.
Q: Usually, most phones stay with the Android version they come with. Are you saying that Nokia smartphones allow customers to upgrade their old smartphones to newer Android versions?
Umunakwe: Very correct. We give you access to upgrade your old Nokia smartphone to the latest Android OS. For instance, Nokia 2.1 launched over two years ago on Android 8.1 “Oreo”, but now, due to our commitment to latest updates, Nokia 2.1 is getting Android 10 Go. This is a proof point on how we deliver updates to our older devices and ensure that your smartphones keep getting better with time.
Q: What are the benefits of these Android upgrades and monthly security updates for the Nigerian customers? Why should they care?
Umunakwe: The benefits of the Android upgrades and monthly security updates are enormous for smartphone users. For one, by upgrading your old devices to the latest Android experience, we are giving you access to the latest Google innovations on old devices, something that you will not get with most other smartphone brands in the market.
And with the monthly security update, we are ensuring that you use your smartphone with peace of mind, by protecting you from malware and other online threats to your smartphone.
This is something you will also not get with most other smartphone brands in the market. To sum it up, you are getting the latest Android experiences and sure protection from malware.
Q: The whole of October is dedicated to cyber security awareness, which shows the need for Nigerians to take issues of their smartphone security very seriously. Give us some tips on how Nigerians can overcome online/smartphone security threats.
Umunakwe: To be honest, while there are some tips I could share on how to protect against online security threats such as keeping your personal information safe, think before you click, use of strong passwords, don’t use open Wi-Fi, etc., the best tip I can give is to ensure that your smartphone itself is secure and up to date. And this is what we offer on all our range of Nokia smartphones. We deliver Android upgrades and regular security updates to give you peace of mind.
Q: What should we be expecting from HMD Global and Nokia smartphones in the coming months?
Umunakwe: We just announced new additions to our smartphone range – the Nokia 2.4, Nokia 3.4 and Nokia 8.3 5G, as well as accessories like Nokia Power Earbuds Lite and Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker.
Nokia 8.3 5G will be available in Nigeria from 1st October, 2020, at an average retail price of N232,000. Nokia 2.4 comes in two memory options: 2GB/32GB and 3GB/64GB, and will be available in Nigeria from 1st October, 2020 at N47,500 and N54,000, respectively. The pricing and availability for Nokia 3.4 will be confirmed at a later date.
All these devices offer two years of operating system upgrades as well as three years of monthly security updates. This is what our customers in Nigeria and all over the world should continue to expect from us – devices that address their pain points in terms of functionality, and keep them free from online security threats.