NetQin, a Chinese mobile-security firm, has seen just about every kind of malware that can infect networks in a country where 800 million mobile devices are in use. "Text-message spam, mobile viruses those problems all give us an opportunity to innovate," says the company's CEO, Lin Yu. NetQin started in 2005, only a year after the first mobile-phone virus was discovered. Lin, then an associate professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, saw the opportunity. Setting up shop in a former kindergarten, he and two other Beijing computer scientists formed NetQin to develop mobile antivirus software. They were happy with the product they created but not too good at marketing it, says Lin, 33. But in 2006 the company devised a work-around, persuading Dazhong, a large electronics retailer, to include NetQin's mobile-security product with new phone purchases. The product's success would lead to partnerships with Nokia, China Mobile and China Unicom. Globally, mobile devices are expected to surpass personal computers as the dominant means of accessing the Internet by 2015. In China that could happen as early as 2012. To Lin, the growing reliance on mobile Internet means that security threats will only grow. "From increased mobile transactions and banking to the movement of television from PCs to mobile phones and pads, these trends will give us a lot more opportunities," he says. And thanks to a mobile-mad population, Chinese companies have a head start.
by Austin Ramzy