Beware of Malicious Mobile Apps

Criminal hackers are targeting mobile phones in record numbers, and one increasingly popular technique is to corrupt legitimate applications. Approximately 200 of these maliciously modified apps have been discovered thus far.

The amount of malware targeted at Android devices has jumped nearly 37% since last quarter, which made 2011 the busiest in mobile and general malware history.  Nearly all new mobile malware in Q3 was targeted at Android’s operating system.

Here are five easy steps device users can take to secure their own devices:

  1. Be aware. For the moment, relatively few instances of smartphone malware have been detected compared to malware targeting desktop or laptop PCs, but awareness of the threat is a crucial first step toward protecting yourself and your data.
  2. Research applications and their publishers thoroughly. Check the application’s user ratings. It safer to install applications that are broadly used, or have been recommended by your circle of friends.
  3. It is wise to purchase applications from a reputable, well-known market. One way for Android users to avoid installation of non-market applications is to deselect the “Unknown Sources” option in their device’s application settings menu. If that option is unavailable, your mobile provider has already automatically blocked applications from unknown sources.
  4. Watch the permissions. When you install an app, you’ll see a list of permissions for services that are granted access to the hardware and software components on your device, like contacts, camera and location. If something in the permissions screen doesn’t look right, don’t install that app! For example, a game or alarm clock app probably shouldn’t need to access your contacts or have the ability to transmit that data from your device. And if you don’t feel comfortable or are unsure about what data the app is accessing, it’s best not to install it.
  5. Install antivirus software on your phone. When setting up a new mobile device, it is a good idea to install an antivirus program before adding any other apps.


Bad Mobile Apps

When it comes to the complex world of mobile threats, your best defense is security software that offers several layers of protection, such as McAfee Mobile Security™ for Android smartphones and tablets as well as BlackBerry and Symbian smartphones. McAfee Mobile Security offers:

Complete antivirus, antispyware, and antiphishing—Scan and clean malicious code from inbound or outbound emails, text messages, attachments, and files.

Safe searching and shopping—Protection against web threats such as risky links within text messsages, email, and social networking sites, as well as browser exploits and malicious QR codes.

App protection with app alert—Review a report on your app’s access to your personal data so you can make informed decisions about each app.

Device lock—Protect against misuse of your phone and personal data by remotely locking all data, including the data on your memory (SIM) card.

Remotely wipe data—Protect your privacy by remotely deleting the data on your phone and removable memory card.

Backup and restore data—Preserve irreplaceable personal information on demand, on a schedule, or before you wipe your missing smartphone; then restore your information to your new device.

Locate and track—Recover your smartphone if it is lost or stolen. View its location on a map, send an SMS to prompt its return, and use a remote alarm to make it “scream.


Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. See him discussing identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)

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