Protecting your smartphone and the personal data you keep on it has never been so important.
Although there are far fewer malicious apps (or ‘malware’) around on smartphones than on computers, they do exist, and, as recent press coverage has highlighted, they’re on the increase.
How could malware affect your phone?
Typically, malicious apps do one of two things. They either compromise your privacy by reading (or stealing) data that they shouldn’t, or they contain a fraudulent action – for example, sending premium rate text messages without your knowledge.
Are you at risk?
Security firm McAfee said it had identified 17,000 new unique forms of mobile malware targeting Android-based devices in the second quarter of 2013¹. When you put that into the context of the 1.2 million apps that are available, it works out to a small percentage of all apps. It’s not something to panic about, but it’s important to understand the risks.
According to Forbes, Android accounts for 97% of all malware². This is because it’s growing so fast, and it’s an open market, so any developer can upload their app with minimal checks. Apple checks all new apps before they can get added to iTunes, so there’s very little chance of any viruses or malware slipping through.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Here are some tips from Three’s Security Team:
Avoid malicious apps:
• Look at the app reviews – if others have found issues, they might rate the app poorly or leave comments warning others.
• Try doing a Google search for the app. If it’s suspicious, you’re likely to find feedback from people who found out the hard way.
• Look at the developer – have they got a good reputation?
• Does it sound too good to be true? Then maybe it is. A free version of the latest game may hide malware. If in doubt, steer clear.
Protect your smartphone:
• Make sure the operating system and software on your phone are up-to-date at all times. You’ll normally be reminded when updates are available, so make sure you download them as they may contain important security patches (read our article to find out about the latest Android update).
• Before you agree to install an app, check the permissions that the app requires – that is, the access the app wants to your personal information.
• Install a good security app with antivirus. There are quite a few on the market, including McAfee, Symantec, F-secure and LookOut to name a few. Some security apps are free and others are paid for. In addition to scanning for malware and alerting you if they find anything, many of these will also allow you to remotely locate your device and wipe your data if you lose it.
• We’d recommend you don’t ‘jailbreak’ your iPhone, or ‘root’ your Android. This can open you up to a whole host of new threats.
The last (and most obvious) point is to be careful about who you give your personal data to – whether it’s your name, address, date of birth, or your bank or credit card details.
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¹ Report from “McAfee Threats Report: Second Quarter 2013”
² Report by Forbes, March 2013