Malware on the Go

2013-07-12-iStock_000017826293XSmall_Huff.jpgThe average Internet user understands the importance of protecting computers and personal information from digital hazards. Smartphones and tablets, however, receive noticeably less attention when it comes to protecting devices from cybercriminals and malware. According to the recently released Mobile Threat Report by Juniper Networks, cellphone malware threats increased 614 percent during the Mobile Threat Center's research period from March 2012 through March 2013. Identifying 276,259 hazardous apps, the research clearly points to a gap in the individual user's security efforts for mobile devices.

By analyzing over 1.85 million mobile apps and vulnerabilities, the study found that 92 percent of identified threats involved Android smartphones (one of the most popular cellphones available). Moreover, SMS Trojans dominate when it comes to mobile threats with 48 percent of attacks resulting from SMS Trojans, which lure smartphone users to send texts to premium-rate phone numbers operated by cybercriminals. Fake installs and spy malware also represent a growing threat with harmful apps misrepresented as Google Play, Skype, Adobe Flash and Angry Birds, among others, which ultimately places devices and personal data at risk following downloads.

Information released by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) indicates that mobile devices and PCs share many of the same weaknesses. US-CERT names stolen devices, third-party malicious apps and phishing through emails retrieved via phones as common hazards for mobile devices. The agency also affirms that smartphones may spread viruses to connected PCs and allow hackers to take control over devices through malware.

With mobile devices offering vital professional and personal functions to the average consumer, the threats against these devices will likely continue to grow. Fortunately, smartphone users may also learn to avoid many existing mobile attacks by following the tips below:

  • Refrain from purchasing third-party apps or downloads from any unknown provider
  • Maintain an up-to-date operating system in order to operate the most current security updates
  • Consider security offerings when selecting mobile devices, including file and data encryption and remote security features
  • Keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings disabled when not in use
  • Avoid "jail breaking" mobile devices
  • Install trusted anti-malware on mobile devices

For more information on keeping your mobile device secure see: Taking a Moment to Pause With Phone Hacking Scandal.