Do I need to be concerned about mobile malware?

An iPhone Virus is a real thing

If you have a smartphone, and 64% of Americans do, you have more than just a phone – you have a computer in your pocket.

There have been volumes written over the years about viruses and malware that affect computers at every level, but not a lot of ink has been spilled over the subject of malware on phones, and that’s a shame – because mobile malware is a present, persistent, and ever-growing threat.iphone virus and Android virus images

A Different Kind of Cellphone Safety

We’ve touched on smartphone security in the past, but today’s threat goes far beyond the physical security of keeping your iPhone out of someone else’s hands. As mobile phones become more sophisticated and our reliance on them becomes more pronounced, so do the opportunities for them to be compromised by malware.

Mobile malware is the new frontier of tech security as people increasingly move away from wired in-home internet for wireless mobile internet, using their smartphones for many of the same things they once used their laptops for, like banking.

Types of Mobile Malware

Just like your laptop, your iPhone or Android phone can pick up unwanted digital hitchhikers during the course of your online travels. Many of us aren’t as careful about our online habits when we’re on our phones as we are when we’re on a laptop, but malware is malware, regardless of device. Among the types of malware targeting your smartphone are:

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. Mobile malware, like its computer counterpart, is ever-evolving, making it a constant threat to personal data and productivity.

How Mobile Malware is Spread

The growing trend of mobile malware is due in some part to the fact that we aren’t as cautious with our mobile devices as we are with our computers. We freely connect to open Wi-Fi in coffee shops, tap on in-app ads (often by mistake), and download free apps without thoroughly vetting them first. But it’s these actions and more that allow malware to spread.

Malware can be found:

  • Hitching a ride with free apps
  • Hiding in an ad within an app (aka malvertising)
  • Contained in a malicious text
  • Circulating on open Wi-Fi

Cyber-criminals aren’t terribly picky when it comes to the information contained on your smartphone. There seems to be a piece of malware designed for just about any sinister end you can imagine, from mining personal data to hijacking your text messaging to capturing the contents of your phone and holding them for ransom.

How to Prevent your Phone from Being Hacked

If you’ve been using your phone as a portable gaming system (hello, Kitty Collector) as well as doing your banking and some shopping while on the go, you might want to take a refresher course on device security. Some of the security measures you should take include:

  • Enable your phone’s lock screen and require a passcode to unlock your device
  • Enable remote lock and erase (Android) or Find My iPhone (iOS)
  • Don’t “jailbreak” your phone or otherwise circumvent security measures indigenous to the phone
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth whenever not in use
  • Only install apps from the real appstore, never from third-party sources, check reviews before downloading to see if anyone has reported the app
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar ads
  • Don’t open messages from unknown senders
  • Keep your phone’s operating system software updated
  • Install mobile security software and keep it updated

Protecting your mobile device from malware and other threats should be on par with the consideration you give to your laptop and network for the same issues. Up to 25% of mobile devices in use expose sensitive data each month, and for many cyber-criminals, that’s easily-picked, low-hanging fruit. Depending on the information accessible through your phone, both your personal and business information could be compromised. Mobile malware is a real, persistent, and growing threat – don’t become its next victim.