As the world has gone mobile, so too have the cybercriminals. With users now spending an average of four hours a day on multiple mobile devices that store mountains of sensitive information, it’s no wonder that mobile malware has become one of the most effective ways to capture our money and data.
Of course, risky apps remain the persistent threat. These days, even official app stores aren’t completely safe. For instance, McAfee noted a 30% increase in threat families found in the Google Play Store over the last year alone. These included fake versions of legitimate apps designed to steal personal information, and apps that signed users up for premium services without their consent, leaving them with hefty bills.
But one of the biggest threats we saw was the rise of cryptocurrencies miners. They can hide in the background of seemingly harmless apps, and use your device’s computing power to mine for Bitcoin and other digital currencies. This type of mobile malware can even cause your phone to overheat and stop functioning all together.
In addition to risky apps, dangers lurk when you connect your mobile devices to public Wi-Fi networks, which are often unsecured. Public networks, like those in hotels and airports, have become hunting grounds for cybercriminals who can set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots and use them to deliver malware. They can also potentially eavesdrop on your private data, including passwords and credit card numbers, as they are sent from your device to the router.
Finally, the explosion of devices known as the Internet of Things (IoT), which include IP cameras, interactive speakers, and smart appliances, offer another avenue of attack for the cybercriminals. Since these devices usually come with few security features, they can easily be hacked and used to spread malware to other more data-rich devices connected on the same network.
Given these escalating risks, it’s essential for mobile users to learn how to secure their mobile devices, and all the valuable information that they hold.
Tips for avoiding mobile malware:
- Use Mobile Security—Make sure all your devices are protected from malware and other emerging mobile threats by using security software that can warn you about risky apps and dangerous links, as well as help you locate and lock down a missing device.
- Avoid Risky Apps—Stick to downloading highly-rated apps from official app stores. You should also check the app’s permissions to see how much of your private information the app is trying to access. Limit access to only what the app needs to function properly. For instance, a calculator app shouldn’t need your location or contact details.
- Choose Strong Passwords—A complicated, hard-to-guess password is your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your online accounts and information. You may want to consider using a password manager that generates strong passwords and keeps them in a secure vault so you don’t have to remember them all. Look into comprehensive security software that includes a password manager.
- Keep your IoT devices separate—Since many IoT devices have very low security, you may want to consider keeping them on a separate network from your smartphones, tablets, and computers since these usually contain private information. Read your router’s user manual to learn how to setup a second “guest” network. Or, you can invest in a router with built-in security that protects all the devices on the network.
- Stay Informed—Given our reliance on mobile devices, mobile malware is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Make sure you stay up-to-date on emerging threats and the steps you need to take to protect yourself.
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