Gone are the days of using our phones for a simple phone call! Mobiles are now rapidly replacing computers as the go to method for going online. We use our phones for online shopping, banking, socialising, working, storing images and they hold a wealth of personal information about us.
According to the latest research from Statista, the number of mobile phone users in the world will reach 4.9 billion in 2018. This is driven by the increasing popularity of smartphone usage which is expected to reach 2.5 billion next year. This means that over half of all mobile users will be smartphone users for the first time, reflecting our growing reliance on smart phones for everything internet related.
They are pretty much, mini-computers and face the same threats that we encounter when using PC’s or laptops and should be protected in the same way.
Cyber-criminals have been quick to capitalise on exploiting these devices with limited security, and as such we have seen a massive explosion in the use of mobile malware.
Malware is a type malicious software designed specifically to target smartphones and tablets. It can be weaponised with traditional computer malware if the target has a mobile interface.
There are lots of different types of mobile malware available, some more harmful than others, the most common types are:
- Spyware – Spyware is often loaded as a program on your device and secretly monitors your activity, location and login details before relaying this confidential information back to a third party
- Trojans – Trojans infect devices by attaching themselves to seemingly harmless or legitimate programs that are installed within the app then carry out malicious actions.
- Ransomware – Ransomware is a type of malware that will encrypt a user’s data and then hold it for “ransom” until payment is made to the attacker.
- Viruses – Viruses are closely related to Trojans and can be installed on a device in a number of ways. They are often highly destructive and often irreparable.
- Keyloggers – Keyloggers sit on a user’s device and log all keystrokes in an attempt to find valuable information.
- Bank Trojans – This type of malware combines a trojan and keylogger attack and is a favoured method of the hackers. It often intercepts a user’s legitimate banking app or trick users into downloading fraudulent banking apps.
How to protect yourself from mobile malware
- Use secure Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi requires no authentication to establish a network connection, allowing hackers direct access to unsecured devices on the same unencrypted open network. Always use password-protected Wi-Fi connections to stop unwanted third parties from snooping on your activity or carrying out attacks on your device.
- Regularly check your apps
If you see any suspicious apps running on your phone, you should delete these immediately. Signs that your phone might be infected with malware include a decreased battery life or an increase in data use. It’s also important to keep your apps and device up to date as cyber-criminals will use any vulnerabilities within the device to hack into your phone.
- Install Anti-Virus Software
One of the most important ways to protect yourself against malware and cyberattacks is through the installation of up to date anti-virus software. Anti-virus software is the first line of defence in detecting threats on your mobile and blocking unauthorised users from gaining access.
- Check and update your phone settings
Phone settings can be changed to prevent installation of content that isn’t from trusted sources. Your phone should notify you before downloading any app to ensure you are restricted from unwanted activity. Make sure you auto-lock your phone and have a strong password in case it is lost or stolen. This can help keep your personal data private. Another good practice is disabling the “Wi-Fi auto connect” feature so your phone will only connect to previously known Wi-Fi networks.
- Don’t click on suspicious links or open attachments
The device may have changed, but the threat remains the exact same. Phishing scams trick people into opening emails or clicking on a link which may appear to come from a legitimate business or reputable source. The link may direct you to a fake website where you are prompted to enter your personal details or take you to a website that directly infects your computer with ransomware. If in doubt, don’t click the link.
- Only Install apps from trusted sources
Only download apps from trustworthy sources. The free ones are often a sure-fire delivery method of malware. Take the time to research both the app and its publishers and read reviews from other users to make sure the app is legitimate and worth downloading. It is also important to be cautious of any links received in an email or text message as they may trick you into downloading an app from a third party or unknown source.