Getting Smart about Mobile Phone Security Applications

Mobile phone owners appreciate the chance to browse the web and download files on the move, but they often fail to realise that a smart phone needs a smart owner. When a mobile device connects to the web it becomes a possible target for malware (malicious software) infiltration and identity theft.

The increasing use of mobile phones in banking and other business transactions makes them a very tempting target for cyber criminals. These same factors also magnify the damage you face if mobile phone security is breached.

Online bandits could easily:

  • Get the personal details they need to access your bank account.
  • Discover how they can steal your identity on social media.
  • Start sending SMS from your phone to premiums rate numbers, or make some other use of your phone without your knowledge.
  • Manage to lock your mobile and try to extort money out of you for unlocking it.
  • Maliciously destroy valuable data, or do other irreparable damage to the device.

Why Mobile Phone Protection is not Always a High Priority

Considering the serious consequences of account details, passwords and other sensitive information falling into the wrong hands, you might expect to find an antivirus app installed on every mobile phone. However, in a 2012 survey Kaspersky discovered that 40% of smart phone owners do not install mobile antivirus.  Many of them apparently place their confidence in the strong antivirus defences of their Android or iOS phones. In other cases they seem to have the impression that viruses are only really a threat to computer users.

How Viruses Penetrate Mobile Devices

Viruses can only get into your mobile phone when you open a “virtual door” for them. This might happen if you:

  • Click on a link in an email from an unverified source, or even an email from a friend whose computer or mobile has been infected with malware.
  • Download a file from a website infected with malware.
  • Download a virus infected app.
    Sometimes these apps are hosted by bogus online stores, but they can also infiltrate legitimate app stores.
  • Connect your mobile device to a virus infected computer to download audio or video files.
  • Fail to avoid compromising data privacy while using Bluetooth, or while connecting your mobile to the web through a Wi-Fi access point.

It is not uncommon for mobile owners to “jailbreak” their phone’s in-built security, for example, they might want to replace the phone’s default web browser with a browser of their choice. Although mobile jailbreakers are confident that the app they want to install is virus free, they are still taking a risk. Unfortunately there are many incidents where users make mistakes and pay a heavy cost for disabling mobile phone security. Reducing the device’s protection against malware is one of the most serious consequences of mobile device jailbreaks.

Who Needs Security Apps for Androids?

Android smart phones have an excellent and well-deserved reputation for effective in-built protection against malware. The fact that they run apps within a closed environment (sometimes referred to as a “sandbox) is a key element in their strong defences. You need to give permission for an app to install, or access data on the mobile. If you deny permission to a suspect app the Android automatically blocks its access.

So far Android antivirus protection has performed well. The vast majority of Android mobile phones infected by malware have been previously jailbroken by their owners. If you never jailbreak the device, and keep to all the web safety rules (such as not downloading from suspect websites, clicking on unidentified URLs, or connecting to possibility infected computers) installing an additional antivirus app could be considered overkill.

Who Needs Security Apps for Apple Phones?

Apple’s iPhones and iPads are well-known for their resilience to malware attacks. The iOS antivirus protection depends on device owners restricting themselves to downloading apps from the Apple store. Since each app in the store is carefully vetted you can be confident that whatever you download is safe.

In Apple’s own words:

“iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are designed with layers of security. Low-level hardware and firmware features protect against malware and viruses, while high-level OS features allow secure access to personal information and corporate data, prevent unauthorized use, and help thwart attacks.”

If you strictly keep to Apple’s rules and pay heed to the warnings not to unload potentially unsafe apps, you could in theory manage very well enough without installing any additional security app.

The Necessity of Phone Virus Protection

Despite the quality of Android and iOS virus defences it is a mistake to assume that they are impervious to all threats. Trend Micro, one of the best mobile antivirus developers, carries out extensive research on mobile device virus threats. In their 2014 report they described the serious threats even the most secure smart phone systems faced. These dangers included FakeID flaw (malware able to impersonate legitimate applications) that affected 82% of Android phone users. At the same time they found that iOS malware threats increased by 80% between 2013 and 2014.

Taking Mobile Phone Security Risk

The key question is not whether you can rely on your mobile device’s Android or iOS security systems, but should you take even the smallest security breach risk? The fact that the mobile antivirus safeguards have so far proven their worth cannot guarantee what will be in the future. The increase in the number and sophistication of malware attacks are beyond dispute. Even with the best security app installed on your smart phone nobody can rule out the possibility of device loss or theft.

Given the serious damage data mobile data loss causes, we strongly recommend that you install an additional antivirus application on your smart phone. Our preferred choice would be the Trend Micro Mobile antivirus app. This earns the coveted best mobile antivirus title by providing an all-embracing package that includes:

  • An effective scanning and virus removal tool
  • Blocking of malware-infested websites
  • Data backup and battery life extension
  • Valuable anti-theft safeguards
  • Full technical support

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.