Unless you’re one of those rare people who shy away from cell phone use, you’re walking around with a cyber bomb in your pocket.
Smartphone malware is an ever-increasing threat. More than 5 billion people use mobile phones worldwide. More than 90% of those individuals rely on smart- or Internet-enabled phones, with an average of 40 installed apps on each phone.
By the end of this year, more than 200 billion apps will have been downloaded from the virtual app store. Therein lies the danger.
Official Apple and Google-controlled software stores are cautious in weeding out unsafe apps. But many cell phone users rely on rogue and third-party download repositories that become overrun with infectious malware.
The danger doesn’t end there at App Stores. Cybercriminals have a toolbox full of ways to slip malicious mobile malware onto your phone. All you have to do is visit the wrong website, click on a link embedded in an email or text message, or open an attached document to enable Cyber Trap.
know the risks
Mobile malware is a growing cyber security concern. This may result in the theft and subsequent sale of your personal data.
Adware is now the cause of 42% of new mobile malware worldwide. Banking malware threats, especially on Android devices, have increased by up to 80%.
According to the latest reports regarding enterprise security, having most of the free or even paid antivirus apps on your phone does little to help detect or prevent sophisticated cyber attacks. About half of free Android antivirus programs do not detect malware effectively.
iPhone security isn’t impenetrable either. Although Android malware is much more prevalent than iOS infections, cybercriminals are getting better access to iPhones. Both platforms are susceptible to malware that opens backdoors into phones through text messaging and other shared file exchanges.
Cybercriminals want your data. Most mobile malware is designed to peer into your digital data to steal your various usernames and passwords. This moves them to your bank accounts.
But cyber thieves do not stop here. They also have invasive software that lets them view your audio and video and track your locations.
What to do
Start by fixing some of the shortcomings in the way you use your smartphone. You want to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to take advantage of you. Taking stock of your installed apps is a great start.
Go to the Settings panel and open the Permissions section. Its exact location will vary depending on the Android version installed and whatever user interface (UI) is used by the phone’s manufacturer.
Normally, you can go to Settings > Apps > View All Apps. Then tap on an app’s name and scroll down the list to tap Permissions.
Check each app for permissions granted by default. Remove all that the app needs. Question why access to the camera, microphone, documents and photos is needed. These are the ways app developers collect your data in order to monetize the software.
Be sure to toggle on the option to remove permissions and free up space for unused apps. Even better, long press on the app name to uninstall the apps you don’t use.
Go to Settings > Apple ID > Password & Security
Work your way through the menu items to set your preferred options. Pay particular attention to the Apps using Apple ID section. This is where you can find third-party apps, such as fitness or email apps, associated with your accounts.
Keep this list short. Be sure to remove apps you no longer use by touching the Edit button and the red “Remove” icon.
Be suspicious at the first sign of your phone behaving strangely. Both Android and Apple smartphone platforms offer the same set of common symptoms that indicate that malware may be running inside your device.
It helps if you know the most recent apps you’ve installed and the documents or text links you have open. This knowledge can help you troubleshoot a potential malware issue.
If your phone has one or more of these six symptoms, it may be caused by malware:
1. Unusual messages and pop-ups
Inappropriate messages or unwanted advertising pop-ups are sure signs of mobile malware or spyware.
2. Titles in your app drawer or library that you don’t recognize
Search the Internet for the title. This can indicate whether the app is secure or not. Delete all unknown app titles.
3. Slow Performance
This could mean that you have almost maxed out on your available RAM (Random Access Memory). Remove unused apps and restart your phone. If the slowness persists, suspect malware.
4. High Internet usage and/or increased battery consumption
These two symptoms often go hand in hand when malware runs on a device. See below for how to perform a system reset to clear your memory and storage, as well as remove malware.
5. Unusual noise or static on your phone connection
This is a telltale sign that a surveillance app is spying on your phone conversations.
6. Funny Voicemail Messages or Text Messages
Receiving messages and calls from unknown parties are major indicators that access to your phone has been compromised.
Resetting or restoring your smartphone is one of the most effective ways to remove suspected malware. Before you waste time and money buying and downloading so called mobile security solutions, do this. Like most battery saver and memory clearing apps, they are pretty much useless.
When finished with these steps you will need to set up your phone again.
Follow these steps to reset your Android smartphone:
Make sure your data is backed up to Google Drive or a comparable solution (see below). Backing up to Google Drive isn’t a requirement, but it’s an easy way to proceed. You need to at least make a backup of your personal data. Otherwise, a copy of your data that was on the device prior to resetting will no longer exist.
- Open Settings and select System
- choose reset option
- Select Erase All Data (Factory Reset)
- Select reset phone at the bottom
- When prompted to confirm that you want to do a factory reset, tap Erase Everything.
- Re-download and install your apps from Google Play
Follow these steps to reset your iPhone:
Back up your data using iCloud or any of the other solutions listed below. However, make sure that your stored iCloud data is not infected.
- Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone
- Tap “Erase All Content and Settings” to clear all apps and data – again, make sure you back up your data to iCloud or to a local drive!
- Restart your iPhone and set it up again
- Re-download and install your apps from the App Store
We cannot stress enough to make a backup copy of your data.
You will not have access to the data on your device before the reset. So please understand that backing up your data is your only defense against losing it.
Alternative backup locations not mentioned above are Microsoft’s OneDrive or other cloud storage service you use, an XD card in the device, your local computer, or external media such as a USB drive.