Let’s just say it. The world is going mobile. Practically any task you can perform on your computer, you can also do with a mobile phone, and there are even a few that your computer can’t do. In just moments, you can simultaneously shop for shoes, deposit a check and then quickly buy a plan ticket all while checking in and posting a photo of the view from where you’re standing. Really, everyone is going mobile—cybercrime included.
Did you know that 1/3 of the top 15 security threats targeting mobile devices are spyware related, a huge spike from the two reported earlier in the year? Cybercriminals are simply following the numbers, and the most significant growth is in mobile users. So these crooks are shifting their focus to net in as many new conquests as possible through as many mobile snares as they can muster.
Spyware can look like a harmless application but it exists for the sole purpose of tricking you into downloading it so it can gain access to your sensitive personal information or mobile data, and transmit it to someone who will most likely use it to malicious ends. In our latest security report, “Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report – June 2013,” a number of security issues were identified, namely on Android operation system, many that involved suspicious URLs and mobile malware.
Spyware can target you in a number of manners, using multiple malware features to gain access to your mobile device. It can be set up as a trojan, which is a type of malware hidden within a legitimate application, or, entice you to install an infected application through targeted phishing from a message or email sent to you, customized to increase the likelihood of you installing said infection. Be careful next time you click on that spam email. It could be installing a slew of malware on your phone with the click of a link.
What can these types of malware do to a user’s phone? Most programs presently circulating will attack your phone in one or several of the following manners:
- Track your location through global positioning service (GPS)
- Record phone calls and text messages (both made and received)
- Watch and record email activity (logins and messages)
- Monitor online browsing and social media actions
- Access photos and contact information on your mobile device
Any one of these features could be used as a means of impersonating your for identity theft, spamming your friends and contacts, gaining access to bank accounts and other sensitive information online, or any number of nefarious attacks against you.
How can you protect yourself against these slippery attempts at your most valuable information? A few tips to help protect yourself and your device from mobile malware:
- Download apps from trusted sources. Watch for apps that come from suspicious URLs as they could be installing software that will later allow a hacker to take over your phone and steal your secure data.
- Double check the permissions requested by each app before downloading. A risky app will ask for access to more than it should need, sometimes looking to gain access to all the data on your device. Most apps do not require this type of access, especially entertainment or game apps.
- Regularly change passwords to email, social media channels and other programs you access through mobile devices. If the site offers two-step verification, make sure to set it up and utilize it.
- Use caution when opting out of advertisements on free apps. The somewhat innocent act of choosing to remove ads from your apps could be unknowingly downloading malware to your phone.
- Secure your device with comprehensive mobile protection, such as McAfee® Mobile Security, that scans your device for spyware and other malware and identifies which potentially risky apps may be accessing too much of your mobile data. To protect all of the devices in your home, use McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which includes protection for multiple devices from mobile phones to desktops computers.
Don’t let spyware keep tabs on your every move. Enjoy the convenience of going mobile without worrying about the safety of your device, data and identity. Keep up to date with regular updates on consumer security threats and mobile safety by following us on Twitter @McAfeeConsumer and Facebook.