With the plethora of mobile apps flooding the market today, offering literally hundreds of thousands of options for any variety of needs and wants from banking to gaming—it’s probably difficult to pin down a favorite for most people. Or is it?
A recent Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) poll found the majority of mobile users prefer the social media app that helps them stay in touch with friends and family—Facebook. According to the study, 45% of respondents highlighted the popular social network as one of their three most used mobile apps. In addition, Facebook beat out other heavy hitters like Instagram and Google Maps, as the top app producer. Despite coming in second and third respectively, Twitter and Candy Crush still fell far behind Facebook, which had four times the usage of either app. Moreover, fewer than 10% of mobile device owners included other popular apps, such as YouTube and Pandora, among their most frequently used.
And while new studies say teens are losing interest in Facebook (which could be read as the beginnings of a phase-out for the social network), the undeniable popularity of the mobile app reveals some interesting trends. Last year for instance, 78% of U.S. Facebook users were mobile, and global mobile daily active user count reached more than 469 million. With so many active mobile users all over the world, it is no surprise that there are constant scams and other threats targeting Facebook’s user base. Mobile app security risks are impacted both by how consumers use the Facebook app as well as communication channels like public Wi-Fi networks.
Security researchers recently found that a significant amount of users who clicked on a malicious Facebook link have done so from a mobile device. With smaller screens and an on-the-go nature, mobile devices make it easier to fall for scams or click on dangerous links, as it is more difficult to check where the links originate. Additionally, users may not always follow safe mobile browsing and usage best practices due to the hurried nature of our modern lifestyles. One of the most common ploys uses links appearing to come from a Facebook “friend” that instead lead you straight into a phishing site, infects your device with malware, and/or takes you to a spam or fraudulent site. There is typically less suspicion around things that seemingly come from people we know, so users are less apt to check before clicking on these types of spam messages. When browsing Facebook updates on a mobile device, it is important to pay close attention to the website address before clicking. Misspellings, extra characters (or symbols) and other anomalies are typically signs of a potential scam.
Another risk mobile app users face is from unsecure Wi-Fi connections. Many people set their phones to use public Wi-Fi networks whenever possible, which saves on data usage, but also leaves them vulnerable to having login credentials snooped or sidejacked. The latter is a Wi-Fi-related risk that extends to apps and services and can be avoided by always using a secure connection when accessing an online account from a mobile device. With Facebook specifically, you can set your account to only use “https” URLS, but this setting does not currently extend to the mobile app. As a general rule of thumb, websites beginning in “https” are always a safer bet as they have additional security on the backend, and ensure that information such as payment data and other actions are encrypted at every stage.
Best practices for safely using the Facebook mobile app can extend to all forms of social media, from Twitter to Tumblr and beyond. Forgoing public and/or unsecured Wi-Fi networks, as well as practicing safe browsing on any platform can help protect personal information and mobile devices from cybercriminals. Additionally, using two-step verification on all social media sites that offer it is another way to add an extra layer of security to your sensitive accounts. McAfee® SiteAdvisor® is included in the McAfee® Mobile Security package and helps protect your device against potential phishing sites, browser exploits, malicious links within text messages, email, social networking sites, and QR codes. There is no need to open the app, SiteAdvisor works with your phone or tablet’s default browser in the background.
With more users than ever accessing personal data via mobile apps, the need for security awareness has never been higher for businesses and consumers alike. Some basic mobile security tips to remember below:
- Turn off Wi-Fi when outside of your home. When out and about, it’s good practice to turn off Wi-Fi on your mobile device. That way it won’t automatically connect to any Wi-Fi that is in the area. And, it will help save your battery life since your mobile will not be constantly searching for an available Wi-Fi connection.
- Limit the access of your third-party apps. Always be careful about what information your apps can access. Under your settings you can view and grant/restrict which apps use your location, camera, microphone or other data and which have access to your social networks.
- Only download apps from official sources. Third-party app stores and websites can be a breeding ground for risky apps and malware. When downloading the Facebook app or other popular options, stick to downloading apps from trusted online sources, such as the Google Play and Apple App stores.
- Be cautious about opening links or downloading attachments. Whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, or another messaging app, be wary of clicking links from unknown sources. Look for red flags like misspellings and when in doubt, avoid them altogether.
- Don’t forget about mobile security software. Just because you practice safe browsing doesn’t mean that your device or personal accounts shouldn’t have extra security. McAfee® Mobile Security comes with many features like McAfee SiteAdvisor to help prevent you from hitting risky websites as well as Wi-Fi protection to warn you when you’re connected to a risky Wi-Fi connection.