What You Need to Know about Malware and Your Phone

With nearly two-thirds of Americans owning a smartphone, it’s interesting to note that many people don’t know the real functionality of their devices. It’s not just a phone, it’s more like a mini-computer in the palm of your hand.

As such, it’s vulnerable to any of the almost one million unique malware programs written specifically to attack smartphones in 2014 alone.

The Pulse Secure Mobile Threat Center is a group of security experts who analyze the dangers to our mobile devices each year in order to get a clear picture of where the threats are. The group analyzed more than 2.5 million mobile apps—those little software titles that make our smartphones “smart”—in order to evaluate the dangers to consumers. Their findings for 2014 were just released in the 2015 Mobile Threat Report, and they’re pretty staggering.

Last year, Pulse Secure identified 931,620 malicious attacks that went after users’ phones by being installed within mobile apps, which is a 391% increase over the number launched in 2013. The majority of attacks went after Android devices (the phones that are not powered by Apple or Windows), largely due to the abundance of third-party app stores around the world for the Android market. Also, the sheer number of potential victims makes Android smartphones the ideal pathway for cybercrime; in 2013, 81.3% of all phones around the world were running the Android operating system.

Pulse Secure also found that most of the Android malware is being created in the Middle East and Asia, and that it’s largely infecting apps that are for sale in those markets. This is likely due to the growing number of aftermarket app stores in those regions, which are websites where mobile device users can buy inexpensive apps that aren’t for sale in the Google Play or Windows app stores.

This is one of the chief reasons why mobile device users are encouraged to purchase their apps directly from vetted app stores. Apple, for example, has a reputation for maintaining its app store with stringent protocols for developers wishing to sell an iOS app; as such, Pulse Secure found only four targeted iOS attacks in 2014, one of which was tied directly to infected Mac computers that users had plugged their phones into.

It’s important for mobile phone users to understand where their third-party apps are coming from. One of the main forms of attack in the infectious apps was the ability to steal funds from the users, something that the report uncovered in each of the top ten malware threats last year. Other known third-party app threats have been the ability to access your contact list in order to target your friends with spam and phishing emails, often seeming to come from you.

Apart from installing antivirus apps for your Android phone, there are some others ways to protect yourself. First, only purchase and download apps from your known app store, and steer clear of tempting offers to download pirated apps or content then sideload those apps into your phone. There are also settings in the phone itself that users can deploy that will help thwart installation of harmful malware.



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