Application downloads may put mobile devices at risk, according to surveys

October 23, 2012

As more employers implement bring-your-own-device policies into their companies, users should become aware of threats that may compromise personal and business information stored on smartphones and tablets.

Increase in mobile use
Mobile devices are quickly growing in popularity among consumers. According to Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013, which was based on the results of 10,000 polled IT professionals, smartphones and tablets are expected to outsell PCs by 2013, Forbes reported. Because these devices allow consumers to check emails, consume media and access applications, they will soon become the preferred choice for web browsing and cloud computing, CIO reported.

Android users at risk
As mobile adoption accelerates among individuals, hackers are taking advantage and spreading malware - their primary targets being Android users. A separate report by a leading security company showed that the amount of malware sent to Androids has increased six-fold in the third quarter of 2012, PC Magazine reported.

Experts at the security firm also found that the number of dangerous applications available in Android's Google Play store increased from 30,000 to 175,000 between June and September of this year, the source reported. Often, hackers trick customers by creating fake copies of legitimate applications to spread malware.

In a separate report, researchers at the Leibniz University of Hanover, Germany and the Philipps University of Marburg, Germany recently found that 185 million consumers who use certain applications are vulnerable to losing private information. Analysts tested 13,500 free apps from the Google Play store and found that 8 percent were susceptible to hacker attacks, BBC reported.

Steps to protect stored information
Because of the growing number of threats targeting mobile users, individuals must take precautions. Experts suggest installing a security app to monitor downloads and block attacks. Customers should also read through permissions before agreeing to an application download, and search customer reviews to determine if there are any problems with an app.

Business owners must also take responsibility to ensure their employees practice proper measures. Professionals should be educated about data loss prevention and mobile threats to avoid issues that may put personal and company materials at risk. Decision-makers should also implement mobile application management software to monitor application downloads on employees' smartphones. 

-McAfee Cloud Security