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?
At the end of 2011, security firm McAfee estimated that there were over 1,200 malicious mobile apps floating around. When you put that into the context of the 500,000+ apps that are available on all platforms, that works out to a very small percentage of all apps. It’s not something to panic about, but it’s important to understand the risks.
Recently, most new malware has appeared on Android. This is because it’s growing so fast, and it’s an open market, so any developer can upload their app with minimal checks and reach a lot of phones. 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 other users.
- 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?
- Is it too good to be true? Then maybe it is. A free version of the latest, newest 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.
- 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 mobile security app. 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. 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.
Over the coming months we’ll be covering more of your questions on security, so stay tuned for more advice and ways to keep your mobile experience safe and secure.
For further information on online security, viruses and password protection, check out our support pages or www.getsafeonline.org.