While reported mobile malware incidents are still relatively low in number, McAfee Labs is seeing significant growth in the mobile malware threat landscape.
Due to the fact that smartphones and tablets have eclipsed unit sales of desktop and laptop PCs, cybercriminals have set their sights on mobile and maliciously modified apps are becoming a more popular vector for infecting devices. Fortunately, there are some common sense practices that anyone can take to help protect their smartphones and tablets from the growing threat of malware and the persistent threat of unsecured devices.
Here are five easy steps device users can take to secure their own devices.
- For the moment, the amount of detected smartphone malware is relatively low compared to malware that targets desktop or laptop PCs; but being aware that it exists is the first step toward protecting yourself and your data.
- Research apps and their publishers thoroughly and check the ratings – better to install apps that are broadly used in the market or are recommended by your circle of friends and colleagues.
- It is wise to purchase from a well-known reputable app store market, such as the Android Market. One way for Android users to avoid installation of non-market applications is to de-select the “Unknown sources” option in the Applications Settings menu on their device. If the option is not listed, it means your mobile service provider has already done this for the user.
- 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.
- Install antivirus software on your phone. It is a good idea to install an antivirus program when you get a new mobile device before you add any other apps.
“As the application market continues to boom, users should be more cautious that they know what they’re installing,” said Lawrence Pingree, Gartner analyst. “For example, they should only install applications from trusted sources and ensure that permissions match up with the respective application’s core features. Anti-malware protection will also go a long way in helping to ensure the user’s mobile device has the latest protection.”
“Maliciously modified apps have started to become more prevalent,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president, McAfee Labs. “Based on McAfee detections, we’ve seen approximately 200 malicious apps versus tens of thousands of good apps. However, with mobile devices becoming a targeted platform for malware, it’s becoming more common for cybercriminals to attempt to corrupt a legitimate app. The best advice for users is to be careful, protect the mobile device and the mobile apps that reside on the device.”