‘Tis the season for mobile malware

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By Armando Orozco

You’ve heard of the “perfect storm”? Well, there may be one brewing in Android-land. We just wrapped up a study that revealed holiday shopping is about to go mobile—in a big way. Turns out, over two times more shoppers plan to buy gifts on their mobile device this year. Over two times more?! It got me thinking…

We know that Android malware is on the rise. Even Android users themselves seem aware of it; our mobile study also found that 23 percent more Android users are concerned with the security of their information than iOS users. And although Google reported it was tightening access to its open source Android OS back in March, our researchers continually spot plenty of opportunities to capitalize on vulnerabilities because there’s still virtually no review process for new apps

It’s not hard to put two and two together.

As sleigh bells start ringing and shoppers reach for their mobile devices, I can just imagine cybercriminals licking their lips. We’ve seen two popular tactics for Android malware: gaining remote access to your device’s data and sending texts to premium numbers. Of course the end goal is the same for both routes: money, money, money.  And what more profitable time to go after the pot of gold than during the busy gift-buying season?

But here’s one more thing to consider: We can’t single out Android devices, because malware isn’t the only risk. The portability of iOS-based smartphones and tablets means they can easily fall into the wrong person’s hands—and whatever data is on that device would go with it.

So before you hit the “mobile mall” on Black Friday, take a few simple steps to protect yourself and your data:

  • Lock your device. Most smartphones and tablets give you a choice of locking it with a password, numeric code or pattern.  Use it.
  • Know your apps. Only download apps from trusted sources, and never install apps that want to access functions they don’t need, like the ability to send SMS messages. And it’s always smart to check out reviews by users and the experts before installing.
  • Use caution when connecting to WiFi hotspots. Avoid banking, making purchases, or logging into secure websites when connecting to WiFi hotspots.
  • Install mobile security. Mobile security apps provide lost device protection, secure web browsing, and antimalware services. Webroot offers several free and premium versions of Webroot® SecureAnywhere™ for protecting devices on the iOS and Android operating systems.

The bottom line: Be a savvy shopper, whether you’re on your Android at the airport or your computer at home. ‘Tis the season to shop safely.


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