Malware, the short term for malicious software, is a program specifically coded for malicious intentions such as corrupting cell phones and other devices, exploiting sensitive data, stealing private information, and the like. It’s designed to penetrate, gain access, and eventually take control over a server, client, or network.
Since iPhones and Android phones can connect to the internet and access web browsers, they have become as vulnerable as computers, being exposed to various security threats.
The Various Forms and Threats of Mobile Malware
Phone malware is malicious software specifically designed to target cell phones. It disrupts and damages the operating systems of these devices. It’s a blanket term used to describe several harmful programs that cybercriminals use in their attacks. Below are the most commonly used types of malware.
Using malicious code, a virus is attached to clean codes, waiting for a system or a user to activate it. Once activated, the virus gradually spreads, damaging any data, system, or program that it gets in contact with.
The concept was adopted from the famous Trojan Horse war strategy used by the Greeks to enter the city of Troy. In the digital world, a trojan is a malicious app disguised as a legitimate one to penetrate a device. Being complacent of the name and logo, the user then activates the trojan upon download. Hackers often use SMS trojans and banking trojans – both cause financial havoc and/or monetary losses.
Despite the rise of various messaging apps, several phone users are still using the built-in MMS and SMS features of the phone. Hence, several hackers still utilize text messages to inject and deploy malware. In some cases, as soon as the message is opened, the malware could instantly infect the device and provide root access to the hacker.
A spy software, more commonly known as spyware, works stealthily, collating information from the target device and feeding it to a cloud account simultaneously. As the name implies, this malware type is used to spy on the device, watching over all activities across all apps and sites, and acquiring sensitive information.
Adware first became famous in computers, wherein ads suddenly pop-up out of nowhere. Sometimes regarded as madware, or mobile adware, the same concept is applied to mobile phones. Hackers utilize enticing unsolicited ads to install a script, gain unauthorized access, and collect sensitive data.
Ransomware adopts the concept of one of the oldest tricks in the book – blackmail. It encrypts personal information and important files, eventually locking out the user. Then, access will remain restricted until a ransom is settled. Some hackers even impose a time limit to add pressure on the user.
Basic Steps To Protect Your Device
Even if your cell phone has become more vulnerable to security threats doesn’t mean you must stop using yours. There are several security measures you can take to protect your phone and your data.
Connect To Private & Secure Wi-Fi
It’s highly recommended to use your mobile data when you wish to surf the web. If there’s a need to connect to Wi-Fi, be sure that it’s private and secure. Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks as some hackers mask malicious connections by copying names and settings of trusted and well-known brands or establishments. Moreover, it’s best to use virtual private networks (VPNs) or private browsers when connecting your iPhone or Android devices to the network.
Download Apps From Official Markets or Stores
Since trojans are rampant in hacking cell phones, you have to be selective in choosing and downloading phone applications. Only acquire apps from official and legal sources such as Google Play and the App Store. Always be thorough and meticulous in confirming the legitimacy of a certain app; never merely rely on the physical appearance nor the description of the app.
Install Reputable and Reliable Antivirus Software
Though most cell phones have built-in security tools, it’s highly advisable to install third-party security software. Antivirus apps are specifically programmed to proactively scan codes and data passing through your network traffic. Using existing viruses compiled in a secure database, manufacturers code the software in a way that it can independently detect, lock, and remove malware. Be sure though to only avail of well-known and trusted antivirus software.
Update Software Via Official Releases
Operating system and software updates are crucial in ensuring the security of a certain device and network as these are meant to fix bugs and patch up security loopholes. Updates are programmed to address vulnerabilities and enhance built-in protection. Only proceed, however, when the update notifications are sent by your official network or carrier. Never trust pop-ups or alerts from third-party sites or unknown sources.
Allow Reasonable Permissions
In most cases, phone applications require certain permissions from the user or the network to function properly. For instance, a social media scheduler app won’t be able to function as designed if you won’t allow the app to access your social media account or your gallery. However, when downloading apps and allowing permissions, always read everything thoroughly to ensure the app’s not asking for excessive access. Some hackers abuse this technicality to gain unauthorized access to the device.
Don’t Root or Jailbreak Your Phone
When purchasing a phone, it’s pre-calibrated to certain settings and pre-installed with apps and programs. It’s strategically designed to support the device’s other software and its overall hardware. This is why as tempting as it may be, never root or jailbreak your phone. The security risks still outweigh the additional privileges offered by a rooted or jailbroken device.
Although cell phone threats are rising, more and more manufacturers are doing their best to create security software and safe modes that could protect a cell phone from such risks. However, phone security shouldn’t solely rely on these. As a phone user, you have to be proactive and take precautions to protect your phone from malware.