As smart phones and devices have increased in market share, so too has their appeal to the hacker community. In fact, there are over two million “apps” specifically designed to take advantage of mobile device users, and new malware designed for mobile devices has exceeded that developed for stationary computers! McAfee Labs further reports that mobile malware will be the biggest contributor to the number of malware attacks in 2014.
In light of these trends, stay safe both in the office and on the go by:
¨ Only downloading trusted mobile apps. Avoid mobile malware by downloading mobile apps only from trusted and approved sources. For example, the Apple Store and Blackberry World verify that an app is malware-free before offering it for download. Historically, apps for Android users were not submitted to analogous scrutiny. Today, Android users have several options available to them, such as running the app through anti-malware software or sending it to the Google Play store for a safety check.
¨ Installing anti-malware software if needed. Mobile malware is on the rise, so be sure to check with the vendor to see if anti-malware protection is recommended for your device. For example, Symantec Norton Mobile Security is available for Android users.
¨ Maintaining the device’s integrity. The purposeful alteration of a device’s operating system is called “jailbreaking.” Users “jailbreak” to circumvent usage restrictions, such as copyright protection on music or videos. This not only voids the warranty, but may also introduce security flaws that could result in the installation of malicious apps.
¨ Being skeptical when clicking on links. Because we often think of mobile devices as simply phones and not computers, users who might not click a suspicious link on their computer may not think twice about clicking on one on their mobile device. Never click a suspicious link in an email, Twitter tweet, text message, or social network post from your mobile devices.
¨ Limiting the information you share with apps. Some apps are more invasive than strictly malicious. This may include free and for-a-fee apps available from reputable sources (e.g., the Apple Store). Keep in mind that once you enter sensitive information into an app (or allow it to access the information on your device, such as GPS location), you may no longer have any control over what is done with that information or how well it is protected.
¨ Keeping mobile device software and mobile apps up to date. When a vendor releases updates for the device software, install them as soon as possible. Remember to update your installed mobile apps, too. Updating software will help prevent attackers from taking advantage of known vulnerabilities. While this won’t specifically prevent the installation of malware, it can limit the impact of a malware infection. As a further precaution, uninstall any mobile apps when you no longer need them.
For more information on protecting mobile devices, see the brochure: Mobile Phones: More Options, More Threats or contact your local IT staff.