Don’t Touch that App! Mobile Malware is on the Rise

Malware isn’t just a problem for traditional PCs anymore. Malicious software targeting mobile devices is on the rise, and thousands of smartphone users have already been affected.

Lookout Mobile Security released its Mobile Threat Report this week, highlighting some scary trends in phone security. According to the report, the average user is 2.5 times more likely to download an app with Android malware now, as compared to the beginning of 2011.

In the first half of this year, the number of unique Android apps with malware went from 80 to 400. And three in 10 people are likely to click on an unsafe link on their mobile device.

One of the more notable malicious applications is the DroidDream Light, malware designed to steal user data. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Android users have already downloaded DroidDream Light.

The rise of mobile attacks is caused by two key factors. First, smartphones now make up the majority of cellphone purchases in the US, creating a vast target market for malware creators. Second, average users don’t associate smartphones with viruses, as they would a traditional PC.

This second cause makes smartphones an obvious target for hackers. According to Lookout’s findings, people are three times more likely to succumb to a phishing attack from their phone than on a desktop computer.

When a suspicious popup appears on your computer screen or when an email requesting personal information lands in your inbox, you instinctively reject it. But when an Android application you’ve downloaded requests to access your data, you’re more likely to grant permission.

The objectives of mobile malware range from phishing for personal information to accessing banking and financial records. And according to WirelessWeek.com, malware creators haven’t even come close to reaching the full monetary potential of mobile attacks. Once that occurs, you can expect hundreds, even thousands of new malicious apps.

To protect yourself against these threats, start viewing your smartphone as you would a computer. Your phone’s safety, ultimately comes down to your own behavior when selecting apps. Making smart decisions about where to find programs and choosing which apps to install can make all the difference in your phone’s security.

The Mobility Feeds blog offers this advice:

“When you install an app, you’ll see a list of permissions for services that the app can access on your device.

But an alarm clock app, say, probably shouldn’t need to access your contacts. If something in the permissions screen looks fishy, just don’t download the app.”

Also, be wary of advertisements on applications and while accessing the internet. Just like the suspicious billboards that often appear on standard websites, ads designed to trick users into downloading infected programs have been found on smartphone browsers.

Finally, installing antivirus software will greatly increase the level of protection on your phone. Many trustworthy security companies, like AVG, McAfee and Symantec, offer a downloadable mobile app.

While this rapid increase in malware targeting smartphones is an unsettling discovery, it doesn’t mean you need to stop using your favorite restaurant-finder or quote-of-the-day app. Just be careful about where you find them and which links you click on. Viruses haven’t stopped the use of computers, and they certainly won’t come in between us and our smartphones.


 

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