The risks associated with mobile devices are on a steady rise. Verizon, in its Data Breach Investigation report, stated that though data breaches on mobile devices are not common, there are continuous targeted attempts by attackers with more dangerous mobile malware. In another report of Mobile Threat Index 2018, Verizon concluded that 64% of organizations experienced an increase in mobile threats over the last year.
5 Ways malware targets mobile devices
The data breach report of Verizon identified five types of malware that target mobile devices:
- Trojans: Trojans open a back door for hackers to enter and intrude the system. They can be attached to malicious apps that are disguised as legitimate apps.
- Adware: The ads that pop up, even on legitimate apps, maybe annoying but serve a larger purpose among cybercriminals. These ads, when clicked, download spyware on your device.
- Spyware: They work in the background, gathering information about the device, and then shares the information with the attacker, without the device owner knowing.
- Riskware: These applications reduce the functionality of your device’s security protocols.
- Chargeware: A legitimate app request that charges the user for services without the user’s authentication.
The different types of malware listed are not equally efficient, but all have the ability to capture data from your device. A series of pop-up ads are less effective than a trojan when it comes to destruction. However, both can intrude without leaving any visible signs and can share data with the attacker.
The Verizon Mobile Threat survey also identified that the rising mobile threat is mainly due to the basic precautions that users fail to take. Only 39% change their default passwords, whereas more than half of the users don’t have public wi-fi policy.
Mobile malware seems scary, but the device hosts various self-protecting features that can be activated by the user, such as a screen or app password, auto-locking, biometrics, VPN, encryption, etc. A mobile phone user must use the security features of their device. However, there are instances where baseline security functions can no longer protect your data. Cybercriminals apply sophisticated techniques to steal information for various nefarious reasons. They constantly look for an opportunity to swoop in and compromise the device.
Protecting your mobile phone from malware
Many of us are aware of the risks associated with connecting open wifi to your phone. There are certain ways that can help prevent mobile malware from entering the device:
- Learn the security features available on your device and use them. Apps that support anti-theft should be installed; turn on automatic screen lock and biometric control after two-minutes of inactivity and use privacy controls.
- Don’t leave your phone unattended. Before traveling, ensure that your phone is with you. Keep the device always locked and don’t share the password with unknown sources.
- Log out or delete apps and websites that you are not using. Many apps continue to download information from your phone, even while inactive.
- Update and patch software before leaving home. When you are outside, there is a possibility of sharing your internet or connecting to open wi-fi internet, and in both cases, your device is prone to receive malware.
- Always verify your social media app privacy and security settings. There are many terms where social media apps ask for consent to access information stored in our accounts, and due to negligence, most people give their approval.
- Install security software that wipes data remotely. This will help in the scenario where your device is misplaced or is stolen.
- Don’t access emails, messages, or links unless you are sure that they are legitimate. Cyberattackers apply phishing and smishing techniques to divert you to a fake site.
Hackers are aware that mobile devices carry confidential information, and therefore, the security of your mobile phone should be considered a priority. Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2021, 27% of corporate data will flow directly from smartphones and portable devices to the cloud. The direct flow of data from mobile devices will create a gap in security and failure of compliance. Wall Street Journal analyzed that the mobile malware designed to steal personal information and banking credentials is on the rise.
When it comes to the healthcare or service sector, the service providers use their smartphones for various business transactions. Though they take the utmost care to comply with HIPAA regulations on their official systems, they don’t extend the same practice to their mobile devices. The organizations should be careful while introducing mobile devices as instruments for business communication. Besides, security awareness, on a serious note, ethical hacking and penetration testing reduce the scope of vulnerabilities in mobile phones.
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