Is Your Smartphone Protected Against Mobile Malware?

iphone-518101_640As a result of the explosive growth of smartphone usage, mobile platforms are being targeted through an increasing variety of new ways, from SMS text messaging to mobile payment app technologies.

With French telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent reporting over 16 million mobile devices worldwide affected by intrusive software in 2014, security experts and software developers are also warning smartphone users against mobile malware, which will play a much bigger role in fraud as smartphone adoption continues to increase.

What is Mobile Malware?

You may be aware of these security risks to your computer, but how does your current smartphone stand up to them? In 2014, a Motive Security Labs Malware Report found that Android devices have caught up with Windows laptops in malware attack numbers, with infection rates between Android and Windows devices split 50/50.

It’s time to improve anti-malware security on your smartphone. Here’s how:

Only install apps from trusted sources

Never download an app from an embedded link or your browser. You should only install apps from trusted, established sources such as Google Play and Apple App Store. However, know that these sources are not 100% infallible: malicious apps were recently downloaded from the latter, affecting many users before finally being taken down. Look for clues (such as a link to an official website, or reviews from well-known technology sites) to determine if the app you’re interested in is safe for downloading.

Keep your operating system up to date

Software updates get a bad reputation, with unfamiliar and often unpopular new features. However, new updates contain patches that will fix any bugs and security blind spots discovered in the previous version, which could leave your smartphone vulnerable to potential exploits. Most phone manufacturers will send you alerts when new updates are available; if not, you can check your app store regularly to ensure your phone is always using the latest OS.

Connect to trusted Wi-Fi hotspots

Connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots whenever it becomes available is something that many of us don’t think twice about, yet your data can easily be obtained by anyone using the same access point. Furthermore, a 2014 study from the University of Liverpool proved that computer viruses could spread very quickly through insufficiently protected networks in densely populated areas, which all open-access Wi-Fi points found in coffee shops and airports. To combat these risks, avoid downloading items from the Internet when connected to a public hotspot. Learn more by reading our previous blog post on Wi-Fi vulnerabilities.

Install anti-malware technology for your device

Most of us are familiar with anti-virus software which, when properly installed, can effectively protect our computers from malicious software. However, many are not aware that the same anti-virus protection is available for smartphones too.

Android users should check out these offerings from Norton and Kaspersky, as well as Sophos’ free anti-malware mobile scanner, which scans all your apps for malware.

Apple devices have generally been more successful in keeping malware at bay, although the recent hacking of the App Store has shown that it’s not 100% secure. The easiest way for malware to infiltrate an iPhone is through a device that has been “jailbroken.” Some users prefer to jailbreak their iPhone so that they can run software that Apple’s built-in system does not allow. However, we highly advise against jailbreaking your phone, as it essentially removes all of your operating system’s security features and leaves it vulnerable to malware.

We protect our computers with anti-virus software, so why don’t we apply the same level of attention to our mobile devices? They have just as much information available if not more, as we spend more time on our smartphones than traditional desk- and lap-tops. Be careful and discerning when it comes to downloading software from the Internet. Follow Privatis on Twitter and Facebook and don’t miss our next installment in our mobile security series, where we’ll discuss mobile encryption– another great way to protect your smartphone.

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