Is your smartphone protected against malware? While you may only think about malware as a problem for your PC, mobile devices are vulnerable, too. Mobile malware can be anything from a nuisance — running ads that drain your battery and data — to dangerous — apps that steal your information for identity theft. But no matter what malware apps do, it's important to avoid them.
Malware is more common in Android phones — so much more common that iPhone users may think they’re immune. But one dangerous piece of Android malware has just made the jump to iPhones, which is a clear sign that all smartphone users need to be careful.
The spyware Exodus has been preying on Android users for years. It’s relatively easy for malware-makers to sneak malicious apps onto the Google Play store, but Apple’s App Store is different. Because Apple reviews every app before users can download it, malicious apps are almost always caught before they ever go live. Apple users may feel secure, but where it comes to malware, it pays to be paranoid.
To let people get the app without Apple's approval, Exodus, tricked unsuspecting users into infecting their phones with malware. These malware-makers used an Apple program that allowed developers to distribute apps for testing without being approved by Apple first. This meant they were able to post the app online and trick people into downloading it. In the case of Exodus, it was designed to look like an app from your cellular carrier, a trick that lured in smartphone users looking for customer service.
Exodus had access to practically all of your personal information: it could collect your contact information, location data and photo library, as well as listening in on your conversations. The hackers who created Exodus could steal your accounts and your identity, making it a dangerous app to have.
Even though the app didn’t affect many users before Google and Apple pulled the plug, it demonstrates why we all need to be careful with our smartphones and other mobile devices. To keep your private information private, follow these smartphone tips:
- Only download apps from Google Play or the Apple App Store. Apps from any other source are very likely to be scams or malware.
- Only download apps made by developers you trust. Though not all apps from unknown developers are bad, scam apps are inevitably from developers you’ve never heard of.
- Consider running an antivirus or anti-malware app, particularly if you’re using Android. Norton (for iOS) and Bitdefender (for Android) are both good options.
- Don’t click suspicious links, which could cause you to accidentally download malware. Be particularly wary of messages that promise something too good to be true, or use scare tactics to convince you to do something. Both of these tactics are common for scammers, who want you to click before you think.
- Don't panic. While smartphone spyware sounds scary — and it is! — your smartphone problems may not be malware. That doesn't mean you can skip following common sense security procedures, but that does mean there's probably no need to panic.
- If you think you have a virus, follow these steps to remove it.
Whether you’re on a mobile device or your PC, following these tips will help keep you safe from hackers and scammers.
[Image credit: person using compromised smartphone via BigStockPhoto]