The volume of cyber threats to mobile computing devices continues to increase as new applications and devices proliferate. McAfee reports that there were more than two million new mobile malware samples in 2013. Symantec reports that nearly 40% of mobile device users have experienced mobile cyber crime in the past 12 months. Some experts estimate that nearly 10% of applications sold on particular platforms are malicious. Most mobile malware gets installed when a user visits an infected website or downloads a malicious application, or clicks on a link or an attachment.
How can you protect yourself? Here’are some helpful tips for keeping the information on your mobile device safe.
- Lock the device
An easy way for malware to get on a device is for someone to manually install it. Locking your device with a strong PIN/password makes unauthorized installation of applications more difficult.
- Install applications from trusted sources
Users must recognize that some applications may be malicious. If an app is requesting more permissions than seems necessary, do not install it, or uninstall the application. Only install applications from trusted sources.
- Don’t jailbreak your device
To “jailbreak” or to “root” a device means to bypass important controls and gain full access to the operating system. Doing this will usually void the warranty and can create security risks. This also enables applications, including malicious ones, to bypass controls and access the data owned by other apps.
- Keep operating systems and apps up-to-date
Manufacturers, telecommunications providers, and software providers regularly update their software to fix vulnerabilities. Make sure your device’s operating system and apps are regularly updated and running the most recent versions.
- Use a mobile security software solution
Install antivirus software, if available.
- Block web ads and/or don’t click on them
Malware can find it’s way onto your mobile device through a variety of methods, including advertisements. The malicious advertisements are called “malvertisements.” Mobile ads accompany a significant amount of content found in mobile applications. Whether you find them annoying or amusing, cyber criminals have turned their attention toward using them to spread malware to unsuspecting users. What makes these “malvertisements” so dangerous is the fact that they are often delivered through legitimate ad networks and may not appear outright spam, but can contain Trojans or lead to malicious websites when clicked on. Some mobile devices have software that can block harmful sites.
- Don’t click suspicious links and attachments
While it may be difficult to spot some phishing attempts, it’s important to be cautious about all communications you receive, including those purported to be from “trusted entities”. Be careful when clicking on links or attachments contained within those messages.
- Disable unwanted services/calling
Capabilities such as Bluetooth and NFC can provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi
Many smartphone users use free Wi-Fi hotspots to access data (and keep their phone plan costs down). Smartphones are susceptible to malware and hacking when leveraging unsecured public networks. To be safe, avoid logging into accounts, especially financial accounts, when using public wireless networks.