Many believe their cell phones to be a safe and reliable method of communication. The likelihood of getting a virus (malware) on a mobile phone seems to be far less likely than getting malware on a computer. After all, most of us have had a mobile device for almost a decade – with the original iPhone being released towards the end of June in 2007 – and have yet to experience an issue. So what is there to worry about?
Since Apple came out with their product, many more followed close by. The major cell phone operating systems (OS) are currently iOS, Android, and Microsoft. 86.2% of all smart devices owned by users are Android, followed in second by iOS which has a 12.9% share of the market, and finally we have Microsoft in third with a 0.6% share in the market. We have begun seeing an unprecedented rise in the amount of malware recently for these mobile operating systems. The most growth of malicious applications and potentially unwanted applications (PUA) than in the last few years combined. There have been 500% more malicious apps and 400% more PUAs in the first 6 months of 2016 alone.
What does all this mean exactly? You are more 500% more likely to get an infection today then you were last year. Android users are specifically targeted due to the majority of users owning them as well as their not-so-strict app market. Virtually anyone can create and publish an app with very little review process. Of those apps targeted, the majority of them are categorized as Tools (31%), Gaming apps (28%), and Entertainment (18%) which are the most likely to be malicious apps.
So what kind of malicious applications are making their way to your phone? Adware, which slows down your system by displaying advertisements and sending data to agencies for advertisers, has seen a 720% growth. Trojans, which infect your device and send private data back to the malicious user, has seen a growth of 525%. Rootkits, which act much like Trojans but are difficult to get rid of because they attach themselves to the necessary operating files of your device (or the root of the device) and reinstall themselves if removed, are up 420% from previous years.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Only downloading apps from Google Play can help – since they do an audit on all of their applications they publish. It should be noted that Google Play is not 100% safe and they pull harmful applications from their store on a consistent basis. There are also numerous anti-virus (AV) programs that can run on mobile devices just as they do a computer. Lastly, always research an application if you are in doubt prior to downloading. These simple steps will help keep you ahead of the curve and will help you put the “where?” in malware.