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For the owners of smartphones and tablet devices the issue of safety is one of great importance especially when accessing the menagerie of apps available, but as a consumer and smartphone user what do you need to know about anti-virus applications?
Many users assume, due to most Android platforms utilizing a Linux operating system, that they are in fact immune to viruses but as malicious app creators use more sophisticated ways to attack this built-in security system, what can you do to avoid malicious apps designed by hackers to target any information stored on your Android smartphone? Information security and malware analysis expert Brittany Thorley answers these questions so you can rest assured your mobile phone and its data is fully protected from cyber attack.
What types of malware pose a threat to mobile users?
It’s not just viruses that ruffle feathers in the mobile information security world, there are two additional types of malware – spyware and Trojans. Spyware is malicious software used to collect information without the user’s permission or awareness, whilst Trojans are also malicious but present a more targeted threat.
In a world where thousands of applications can be downloaded without the arduous vetting procedures enforced by the iPhone App Store, users can easily download malicious apps, also known as ‘bad apps’, which contain these malware threats. Without sufficient anti-virus software installed, the unsuspecting user is none the wise, despite all apps in the Android marketplace carrying a warning about the information that the app must access to fully install on your smartphone. This warning regarding permissions to particular data or services appears when attempting to download both good and bad apps, so the majority of users simply ‘tick’ to complete installation without any thought at all.
Rogue applications and permissions
If a malicious application gains access to certain permissions, such as your permissions to read and write contact data or send MMS or SMS messages, this could leave your whole mobile platform compromised resulting in a costly phone bill and the loss of important data.
One particular bad app that springs to mind when discussing the importance of vigilance when allowing apps to access certain data or services on your smartphone is ‘Twilight’ gate. This piece of malicious software whipped up a frenzy amongst fans of the teen saga, promising a sneak preview to the latest instalment of the Hollywood film franchise. However, as users frantically downloaded the app, the majority failed to notice that the application required permissions to their contacts and networking services. Once downloaded this app contacted and corrupted all of the user’s contacts.
What can I do to avoid ‘bad apps’?
Being aware that there is rogue applications out there waiting to swipe your precious mobile data when you least expect it is the first step to not falling victim when browsing the Android market. Do your research and always be suspicious by checking the reviews and user ratings of the app before you download. If you come across negative reviews or the application content itself seems a little too good to be true, exercise caution.
Do your research when it comes to which app store you use too, legitimate marketplaces like the iPhone App Store and Google Play vet all applications before they are available for download. Whilst some may slip through the net, using a reputable vendor provides optimum protection when shopping for the latest and greatest applications. Avoid apps that aren’t available through these marketplaces and are instead from an unknown source, Android users can do this by visiting their application settings on their device. When installing the app, be sure to check what permissions it needs to complete the download. Treat permissions attempting to access any hardware or software on your mobile with caution and think twice when an application requests permission to write or read contacts, access your networking capabilities or utilise other high importance data or services.
Always make sure you are fully protected with mobile anti-virus software, which should be installed via a reputable marketplace and regularly updated. Your anti-virus software will regularly scan your phone and detect rogue applications, other potential threats and system vulnerabilities for a safer, more secure Android smartphone.