How To Protect Yourself From Mobile Malware

New Research Shows Increased Threats to Mobile Devices

How To Protect Yourself From Mobile Malware
December 31, 2018

Do you take mobile device security as seriously as you should? You probably connect to the Internet more on mobile devices than you do on desktops – especially on smartphones, since you're likely never far away from yours.

According to the 2018 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, newly discovered malware for mobile devices increased by 54% in 2017 compared to 2016. According to the report, over 26,000 mobile malware variations exist for your security system to fend off – and surely more appeared during 2018.

In 2017, malware was blocked from mobile devices nearly 24,000 times per day on average – and those are just known failed attempts. In addition, over 3,500 ransomware apps were blocked each month.

Even if your system successfully fends off malware, you could be plagued with "grayware" – programs that aren't classified as malware but are annoying and potentially harmful. (Spyware and adware are prime examples.)

In 2017, 63% of grayware applications leaked phone numbers, while 37% reported the phone's physical location. According to Symantec, grayware variations increased by almost 20%.

Apple/iOS users, don't be smug. You're in jeopardy, too.

The old desktop perception that Macs are immune to viruses and malware was never true – it's just that thieves got more bang from the buck by targeting Windows systems because of their dominant market share. However, the same argument doesn't necessarily apply to mobile devices. Symantec reported an 80% increase of new malware on Mac devices.

How can you protect yourself against mobile malware?

As with any device, keep your operating system regularly updated to incorporate the latest security measures. Over three-quarters (77.3%) of iOS devices had the latest major operating system installed in 2017, while only 20% of Android phones were similarly updated.

Use secure networks and connections whenever possible. Symantec found that nearly half (43.7%) of new devices were subject to network threats in the first four months, while over 1 in 5 (21.2%) were exposed within the first month. Android users should keep USB debugging off to prevent malware from being installed through corded connections (think public charging stations).

Use only reputable Internet security software to help defend the threat. Beware of free security apps from unknown vendors. They're free and unknown for a reason.

Be very careful when choosing your app download vendor. Almost all (99.9%) of discovered mobile malware was hosted on third-party app vendors. Stick with major reliable providers such as the iOS App Store, Google Play, Galaxy Apps, and the Amazon App Store. Even there, you're not entirely safe.

Research an app in detail before you download it, especially within certain categories. Almost half of the malicious apps in 2017 were discovered in the Lifestyle category (27%) or the Music & Audio category (20%).

Avoid "jailbreaking" your iPhone or "rooting" your Android device – disabling various security controls to let you personalize your system and enable blocked functions. You may know quite a bit about your operating system, but how much do you know about the potential threats you're enabling? You probably don't know more than the malware creators do.

Beware of variations of typical computer or e-mail scams – suspicious texts, e-mails, websites, etc. that ask you for personal information or direct you to download an app. Do your research before granting permissions or downloading any files or apps.

In short, mobile device protection is similar to stationary device protection. Keep up with important OS and software updates and be very careful how and where you use your device. Understand your mobile device and use common-sense protections, and you'll be ahead of the game.

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Photo ©iStockphoto.com/stevanovicigor

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