Unless you’re one of those rare people who shun cell phone use, you’ll be walking around with a ticking cyber bomb in your pocket.
Smartphone malware is a growing threat. More than 5 billion people worldwide use mobile phones. Over 90% of those individuals rely on smartphones or phones with internet access and an average of 40 apps installed on each phone.
By the end of this year, more than 200 billion apps will have been downloaded from virtual app stores. Therein lies the danger.
Official software stores controlled by Apple and Google are vigilant about removing unsafe apps. But many mobile phone users rely on rogue and third party download sources that are inundated with infectious malware.
The threat doesn’t stop at the app stores. Cyber criminals have a toolbox full of methods to smuggle malicious mobile malware onto your phone. All you have to do is visit the wrong website, click an embedded link in an email or text message, or open an attached document to trigger a cybertrap.
Know the risks
Mobile malware is a growing cybersecurity problem. It can lead to theft and subsequent sale of your private information.
Adware is now the cause of 42% of new mobile malware worldwide. Malware threats to banking, especially on Android devices, have increased by 80%.
Having the most free or even paid antivirus apps on your phones does little to detect or prevent advanced cyber-attacks, according to the latest corporate security reports. Nearly half of free antivirus programs for Android do not detect malware effectively.
iPhone security isn’t impenetrable either. While Android malware is much more common than iOS infections, cybercriminals are getting better access to iPhones. Both platforms are susceptible to malware that opens backdoors to phones via SMS and other shared file exchanges.
Cyber criminals want your data. Much of the mobile malware is designed to look into your digital data to steal your various usernames and passwords. She gets that in your bank accounts.
But cyber thieves don’t stop there. They also have invasive software that allows them to snoop through your audio and video and track your locations.
What must we do
Start by eliminating some loopholes in the way you use your smartphone. You want to make it harder for cybercriminals to take advantage of you. A good starting point is to inventory your installed apps.
Go to the settings panel and open the permissions section. The exact location depends on the Android version installed and the user interface (UI) used by the phone manufacturer.
In general, you can go to Settings > Apps > View All Apps. Then tap an app name and scroll down the list to tap Permissions.
Check each app for the default permissions granted. Delete everything but the one that needs the app. Ask why access to camera, microphone, documents and photos is required. These are the ways app developers collect your data to monetize the software.
Make sure to enable the option to remove permissions and free up space for unused apps. Even better, long-press the app name to remove apps you don’t use.
Go to Settings > Apple ID > Password & Security
Work your way through the menu items to set your preferred options. Focus especially on the Apps with Apple ID section. Here you will find third-party apps associated with your accounts, such as fitness or email apps.
Keep this list short. Make sure to delete apps you no longer use by tapping the edit button and the red “delete” icon.
Be suspicious at the first sign that your phone is acting strangely. Both the Android and Apple smartphone platforms show the same set of common symptoms to indicate that malware is present on your device.
It helps if you know the most recent apps you have installed and documents or text links you have open. This knowledge can help you troubleshoot a potential malware problem.
If your phone has one or more of these six symptoms, the cause could be malware:
1. Unusual messages and popups
Inappropriate messages or unwanted ad pop-ups are clear 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. It can indicate whether the app is safe. Remove all unknown app titles.
3. Slow Performance
This may mean that your available RAM (Random Access Memory) is almost full. Delete 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 is running on a device. See below how to perform a system reset to wipe your memory and storage and also remove the malware.
5. Unusual noise or static on your phone connections
This is a telltale sign that a monitoring app is sniffing your phone calls.
6. Strange Voicemail Messages or Text Messages
Receiving messages and calls from unknown parties are important indicators that access to your phone is being compromised.
Wipe out the malware
Resetting or restoring your smartphone is one of the most effective remedies for removing suspected malware. Do this before you waste time and money buying and downloading so-called mobile security solutions. Like most battery saving and memory clearing apps, they are pretty useless.
Once you are done with these steps, you will need to reset your phone.
Follow these steps to reset your Android smartphone:
Make sure your data is backed up to Google Drive or a similar solution (see below). Backing up to Google Drive isn’t a requirement, but it’s an easy way to get ahead. You must make a backup of at least your personal data. Otherwise, there will no longer be a copy of your data that was on the device before the reset was performed.
- Open Settings and select System
- Select Reset options
- Select Erase all data (factory reset)
- Select Reset phone at the bottom
- Select Clear everything when asked to confirm that you want to do a factory reset.
- Download and reinstall your apps from Google Play
Follow these steps to reset your iPhone:
Back up your data using iCloud or any other solution mentioned below. However, make sure that your iCloud saved 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’ve backed up your data to iCloud or to a local drive!
- Restart your iPhone and set it up again
- Download and reinstall your apps from the App Store
We cannot stress enough to back up your data.
You cannot access the data that was on your device before the reset. So understand that backing up your data is your only safeguard against loss.
Alternative backup locations not mentioned above include Microsoft’s OneDrive or any other cloud storage service you use, an XD card in the device, your local computer, or external media such as a USB drive.