News December 2011.

December 2011 News – Can my mobile phone or tablet get a virus?

Gone are the days when all internet usage was done at a computer. Our mobile phones are no longer just phones, holding only names and telephone numbers. We now use our mobile phones to access websites, social media, software applications and shop online. Tablets have also enabled us to use the internet while we’re on the move or from the comfort of our living room. With these new devices our internet access is much more mobile and flexible to our daily needs. Most people are aware that if you use the internet on your computer, internet security software or anti-virus software is a must. But what aobut our mobile phones and tablets – is anti-virus software or security software really needed on these devices too?

The answer is a definite YES. The creation of malicious software (malware) for Android (the operating system found on many smartphones and tablets) has jumped significantly in recent months. As Android has now a significant presence in the market, these malware creators have swithced their focus. Malware creators know that most Android-based devices are not running any security software at all. And don’t think that if you own an iPhone or iPad you are immune. As more and more people turn to the convenience of mobile devices for their internet access, malware creators realise they have a larger audience where they can inflict more damage.

So what’s the risk? What can happen if I don’t have interent security on my mobile phone or tablet? Well, malware can allow hackers to gain access to any personal information on your phone or tablet, which can then be on-sold to identity thieves and also used to spam other device users. Any data that you have stored on your mobile phone or tablet can be hacked and used, this can include your messages, your contact list, your photos, your location and any information you’ve created using an installed application (e.g. notes or documents). Mobile phone malware can be used to secretly send premium rate text messages or make calls to premium numbers from your account. As this activity does not show in your Sent folder or Call History, you won’t even know it’s happening until you get your account statement or run out of credit.

Most commonly, malware hides in software applications (apps) that seem innocent but may actually be pirated versions of genuine apps, ‘free levels’ of popular games or even fake security tools. There is also a growing concern about malware hidden behind ‘URL shorteners’ (like bit.ly, t.co and cl.ly). These tools are used to display a short version of a long internet address and hide the target location of the internet site where you will actually end up.

So, how do you protect yourself from malware? Malware usually relies on your acceptance before it can install, so you can protect yourself by folloiwng these five good habits:

• Avoid installing apps that you’re not familiar with including software that wants to download and install automatically from websites.
• Be wary of free apps and those with prices that seem too good to be true, compared to their usual price.
• Confirm whether friends or family really did send you a message before clicking on any links.
• Be wary of online contests or promotions to win free gadgets, other products or services.
• Install a reputable anti-malware app. Learn how to use it and keep it updated and what the alerts looks like.

Talk to Computer Troubleshooters – Croydon, about the best anti-malware solution for your mobile phones and tablets, or for any of your technology needs.