Smart phones have been rising steadily in popularity, and are now used to access the internet more often than desktop computers. Android has become the most popular operating system in use worldwide. Hackers are aware of its popularity, of course, so naturally more and more attacks are focused on Android users.
Although there are many benefits of this open-source software, the increased accessibility of Android’s operating system has left it exposed to a variety of malicious attacks. In order to infect a user’s device, cybercriminals embed malware within malicious apps. Many of these malicious apps are downloaded by users when they install what appears to be a legitimate app. Because of its popularity, Google Play is an abudant source of malicious Android apps. However, there is a much larger risk of running into malware on unofficial app stores.
To infect a device, some of these apps will try to trick users into a false sense of security by impersonating legitimate organizations or using popular brand logos. They often impersonate popular services, financial apps, or even security apps. Others will ask users to grant permissions—revealing credentials unnecessarily—to gain administrative access to a device. One technique that is sometimes used is the overlay: a screen prompting users for credentials or financial information appears on top of a legitimate application.
Once embedded on a mobile device, there are many things these malicious apps can do. They are able harvest personal information by profiling your device, capture login credentials from other applications, and even intercept text messages. For example, a malicious app can harvest banking information and gain access to an account by intercepting multi-factor authentication codes sent to a user’s phone.
Mobile devices have proven to be the most challenging to defend, but you can protect your smartphone and the personal data it holds by following some basic security practices:
- Only install applications from the official Google Play store, and only apps that are offered from legitimate companies.
- Do not give apps permissions that are not relevant to its function.
- Keep your phone’s operating system up to date and use an anti-malware application that actively scans your device for threats.
- Stay up to date and educated on threats associated with mobile devices.
As mobile phones become the primary computing device for more and more users, they will continue to be a target for cybercriminals. By following best practices for mobile security, it is possible to stave off malicious attacks and overcome many of the challenges associated with the powerful mobile phones used by so many people.