Consumer, Identity Protection, Mobile Security

Risky Mobile Applications Plague Users

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By on Feb 20, 2013

Once you own a smartphone or tablet, you are not likely to give it up. But it is essential that you can understand where the risks are and steer around them as you enjoy your mobile digital life.

With the growth in mobile exploding, it is only natural for cybercriminals to move towards that device as a means for profit since it has such large numbers. And for us as consumers this means learning about these new ways hackers can trick or deceive us.

Part of the education process is understanding where and how all this malicious activity happens. Unlike PCs where infections typically happen through email (attachments or links) or from visiting an infected website, for mobile devices, malicious software (malware) is distributed primarily through infected apps.

In their Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report, McAfee analyzed data from McAfee Mobile Security users on Android devices and found:

  • 16% (or 1 in 6) of apps are infected with malware or contain links to risky URLs
  • 40% of malware do more than one malicious activity (for instance it may not only send your mobile # and device ID to the hacker, but it may also open a “door” so the hacker can get future information from other apps)
  • The #1 malicious activity the malicious apps did was send handset and personal information to the hacker
  • Spyware represents about 1/3 of all malware families in our zoo and 23% of mobile spyware joins a botnet or opens a backdoor, increasing the risk of data loss or device abuse

What does this mean for you?

It means you better be careful with your mobile device and especially what apps you download and use. I don’t know about you, but my smartphone has become an extension of me and without it I’d be lost. And if all the data that was on my phone got into the wrong hands, I shudder to think of what could happen.

That’s why it’s critical that you are careful when using apps. Here’s some tips to stay safe:

  • Watch where you download: Only download apps from reputable app stores
  • Investigate the app: Researching it by reading reviews and checking its ratings
  • Check the permissions: Make sure the app is only accessing data it really needs to function- studies have shown that 1/3 of apps ask for more permission than they need1
  • Don’t store your logins: Do not choose the “remember me” option for apps and mobile browser for your login information, even though this is not as easy. This way, if a stranger accesses your device they cannot log into your accounts as you.
  • Use security software: Software such as McAfee® Mobile Security can also help protect your phone against malware, bad apps and other mobile threats. It also allows you to remotely locate, track and lock your device in the case of loss or theft.

Even though 51% of us would rather lose our wallet than our smartphone,2 only 4% use mobile security software.3  It’s time….save yourself the hassle later and make security a priority for your mobile device and yourself.

 

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

 

1 http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~afelt/android_permissions.pdf
Cisco 2011 Connected World Technology Report
3 http://juniperresearch.com/viewpressrelease.php?pr=255

 

 

 

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