According to Statista, the number of smartphone users in the world will pass the five billion mark this year. It’s not difficult to see why – both smart and connected, these pocket devices have become the epitome of accessibility and convenience. But because of this, they are also treasure troves of sensitive information.
Every device that is connected to the internet is vulnerable to cyberattacks, including smartphones. When it comes to malware infections, PC outnumbers mobile 40:1, but the number of affected phones has been growing at an alarming rate with a 27% increase in 2017. However, there are ways to protect your Android device and here’s five of them.
- Third-Party Apps Are the Biggest Threat to Mobile Security
The majority of mobile cyberattacks happen due to third-party apps.
Third-party Android apps are the ones that are not in the official Google Play Store. They are not all malicious, of course. The problem is, with no one to oversee their distribution, there’s no surefire way of telling if an app is malicious.
A common cybercriminal trick is to copycat and pirate an app from the Google Play Store, infect it with hidden malware, and list it somewhere else for free download. This is how cybercriminals exploit the fact that Android is an open system that allows devices to run third-party apps.
Through this crack in the wall, intruders can record your location, monitor your activity, and steal sensitive information. They can do so unnoticed for days, which is why prevention is the best cure. Avoid using third-party apps at all cost and download apps only from the Google Play Store.
- Fraudulent Phishing Attacks Target Smartphone Users Too
Phishing is a type of cyberattack that targets gullible users with fraudulent links and dummy websites to steal their passwords. Intruders mainly use email, where they introduce themselves as reps working for a bank or any other company that has you as their client.
Falling for such scams leads to all types of consequences. For instance, a combination of third-party apps and phishing is used to trick victims into leaving their credentials in a fake app. Those apps are called mobile banking Trojans.
The best way to avoid phishing via email or SMS is to stay informed and vigilant. Don’t trust any strangers that email or text you, especially if they ask you to follow a link to a suspicious website. Also, only use the official app or a browser to access your mobile banking account.
- Public WiFi Hotspots Make You Vulnerable to Intruders
Public WiFi networks are usually unencrypted. This means that virtually anyone can see all the data you send, even if they are not connected to the network. It’s extremely dangerous to share sensitive information while connected to public WiFi. But it’s also risky to even browse the web or use social media – it can lead to identity theft and other attacks.
There’s a lot of undetected snooping on public networks, so never use them for any online activity that involves your name and passwords. If you absolutely need to make yourself vulnerable, use a reliable mobile VPN.
Virtual private networks mask your IP address and encrypt your data. This allows you to use public WiFi on your smartphone and minimize the risk of being exposed to intruders.
- Dangerous Mobile Malware Can Stay Unnoticed for Weeks
Finally, you need to know that it is very difficult to spot infection on your smartphone. An unusual spike in data usage, short battery life, or sudden slow performance are the three most common telltale signs that your phone has been infected with malware.
Removing malware is not a problem. The problem is that a bug might remain rooted in your device for weeks without you realizing. While there, it may steal all kinds of sensitive information: your passwords, contacts, or business documents.
That’s why prevention is the only viable protection. Keep your Android smartphone safe and secure by following the tips mentioned above. Stay away from third-party apps, be wary of phishing attempts, try implementing a mobile VPN in your daily browsing activities, keep your OS up-to-date, and make sure to check your device for malware from time to time.
- Android Patches Are Known to Lag Behind Cybercriminals
Unlike iOS, which runs only on Apple devices, Android is used by many different smartphone brands. HTC, Huawei, LG, Samsung, and Xiaomi all use Android OS and rely on Google’s official patches and updates for security.
Unfortunately, it takes time for these Android patches to get to a Xiaomi device, for instance. In that time, the Xiaomi phone runs on an outdated OS that isn’t able to withstand new types of cyberattacks.
Android users can do two things about this. First is to opt for Google’s own devices, such as Pixel. The second is to buy smartphones from brands that release Android patches quickly. From quickest to slowest, they are LG, Motorola, HTC, Sony, Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Samsung.