Our smartphones have become our most trusted companions, keeping us connected, informed, and helping us simplify our daily activities. As we use more apps and share more data, the number of mobile security threats we expose ourselves to grows.
The mobile threat landscape is constantly evolving, and cybercriminals have become more insidious. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, the threat researchers at Avira, Germany’s leading cybersecurity company, detected and blocked over 320 million new threats. Out of those, over one million targeted Android devices. Even though Apple has a better grip on its App Store and a closed-source OS less prone to hacking, iOS devices are also at risk. Here is how you can protect yourself from mobile malware and secure your smartphone.
1. Take software updates seriously
The first and easiest step to keep your smartphone secure is to update your operating system regularly. Almost every update contains security patches meant to fix vulnerabilities found the easy way (discovered by OS’s developers or reported by users) or the hard way (after a security breach that caused significant damage). Besides, most updates bring additional privacy features. The notification that a new update is available usually pops up at the most inconvenient time, but the cost of ignoring or postponing it is very high. Take the time to install the latest OS version and all updates provided by the manufacturer.
2. Watch out for malicious apps
Malicious apps are designed to spread mobile malware, such as adware, spyware, ransomware, trojans, and worms. These apps often look like popular apps and give the impression that they are developed by the same team behind the renowned apps they try to imitate. They mostly spread through unofficial app stores, social networks, and emails. To avoid installing malicious apps, download apps only from the official app stores. In addition, check the developer's name, the number of downloads, the app permissions, and the user reviews. Be aware that malicious apps can even get into official app stores, so it’s safer to check all the important details even when downloading apps from official sources.
3. Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi is convenient, especially while traveling, but comes with severe privacy and security risks. The most common risk is represented by man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM) – a type of attack where a cybercriminal intercepts the communication. The attacker can alter or redirect the communication, or simply eavesdrop and gather private information and data. To avoid such attacks, communication should be encrypted. When using public Wi-Fi, it is recommended to use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption and a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates a secure private network by encrypting data and changing your IP address. There are many VPN services available for mobile devices, and some of them, such as Avira Phantom VPN, are free.
4. Watch out for mobile phishing scams
Phishing is still one of the most common cyberthreats, and it gets more sophisticated every day. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge in phishing scams on a global level. Phishing scams come in many different forms: fake emails, pop-up ads promoting “too good to be true” offers or a miraculous COVID-19 cure, messages with dubious links sent via social media, or even phone calls. Attackers attempt to get access to sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details.
To avoid phishing scams, make sure to carefully check the URL included in the messages and emails you receive. If you do decide to check out the URL, don’t click on the link included in the message. Instead, visit the website by typing in the address into your browser and, preferably, search the website beforehand to make sure it’s a legitimate business. In addition to paying attention to the URL, you should also carefully check the sender’s address or profile. Cyberattackers might try to impersonate other people – an employee of a company whose services you are using, a co-worker, or a friend of a friend. Be vigilant when receiving a message or call from a person you don’t know, and do not give away any sensitive information.
5. Install a privacy and security software for mobile
The easiest way to protect yourself from all these threats is by using additional protection for your smartphone. An antivirus for mobile can help you block mobile malware and keep your device secure and fast. Besides privacy and security risks, malicious apps can also harm your smartphone’s performance. The heavy processes running in the background without your knowledge can drain the battery and slow down your device. A professional security and privacy software checks the apps' behavior and notifies you when an app takes up too many resources or collects too much information. Advanced solutions also provide access to a VPN for browsing safely and privately.
Avira offers free solutions for both Android and iOS. Avira’s free mobile security software provides:
- Antivirus protection for blocking mobile threats and malicious apps;
- Free VPN for safe and private browsing;
- Network scanner for monitoring the smart devices connected to your home networks;
- Privacy and permissions manager that monitors how much data your apps collect and, in the case of iOS devices, prevents Siri from accidentally recording your conversation;
- Anti-theft protection and more.
You can download Avira Mobile Security for iOS for free from the App Store or Avira Antivirus 2020 for Android on the Google PlayStore. If you want to find out more about Avira’s cross-platform solutions, visit avira.com.