The vast majority of malware attacks still take place on PCs. But cybercriminals are increasingly turning their attention to smartphones. And no wonder: Smart phones have become miniature computers. Many of us use smart phones to surf the net, read e-mail messages and transfer funds to our banks. These products, then, are ripe for attack. Fortunately, you have things you can do to defend your smart phone from hackers.
David Goldman, a writer with CNN Money, recently uncovered some frightening statistics regarding mobile malware. According to Goldman, Lookout Security recently found one out of every four smart phone users either clicked or swiped on a suspicious Web link. Goldman also reported numbers from McAfee indicating that mobile malware attacks during the last year have jumped by a factor of six. Plus there is the report from security firm F-Secure that Android malware attacks quadrupled from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012.
The Good News
Smart phone users, though, shouldn’t panic. Malware attacks against mobile devices are still relatively rare. And that’s especially so when than the amount of threats levied against PCs. For instance, Goldman writes that McAfee as of mid-2012 had identified about 13,000 types of mobile malware. That’s significant. However the company also had detected upwards of 90 million forms of malware aimed instead at PCs. That’s really a staggering number. Why have cyber criminals been so aimed at PCs? They have been successful. They don’t really have an serious incentive to take their malware to smart phones simply because they’re already swindling so much money out of PC users. But as Goldman writes, this will certainly change.
You can protect yourself from mobile malware attacks. And, just like with PCs, it mostly requires common sense. For example, when you are shopping for new apps, be careful. Don’t unintentionally download pirated versions of free apps. The pirates behind these apps charge you for apps you could normally get at no cost. Be skeptical, too, of apps promoting free virus protection. Mobile virus software normally isn’t free. A free app might be a virus in disguise. When you are searching for apps stay in well-known, regulated app stores. Independent app stores such as GetJar don’t have the same amount of regulation as iTunes and other regulated stores. Finally, be suspicious of phishing schemes. Never give out personal information including bank account numbers or Social Security numbers through e-mail.