Protecting your smartphone against malware: Some simple gestures to adopt

Our smartphones often contain our entire lives, and having their data stolen by malware can cause a lot of hassle. It is essential to secure your smartphone so that your credentials, banking information, photos, videos, and sensitive files remain protected from malicious actors. By following a few rules, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of getting hacked. To add an extra layer of security, it’s possible to install antivirus software to defend against threats.

Smartphones are the target of increasingly dangerous threats. Hackers use sophisticated techniques to steal your data, which they can then sell or exploit themselves. Identity theft, bank fraud, access to cryptocurrency wallets— in the event of an attack, the consequences can be disastrous. However, there are a few easy best practices you can put in place to protect yourself from malware.

WHY PROTECT YOUR SMARTPHONE FROM THREATS?

Viruses and malware aren’t just limited to our computers; smartphones are increasingly targeted by malware. Since they contain private and sensitive information, it’s important to guard against threats to prevent your data from falling into the hands of a malicious individual or organization.

Cybercriminals are interested in a large number of items stored on your smartphone, including:

  • Your email and social media accounts
  • Your multimedia files (videos, photos, etc.)
  • All your banking information
  • Your notes (if you enter your passwords, for example) and sensitive documents
  • Your browser history

These are just non-exhaustive examples of what can be accessed by hackers who have managed to infiltrate your mobile device. Whether it’s in a professional or personal context, seeing all this data stolen puts you in a lot of trouble.

HOW TO SECURE YOUR SMARTPHONE AGAINST MALWARE?

In 2019 alone, there were over 100 million mobile malware attacks detected globally [1]. With threats growing in sophistication, no mobile operating system is completely immune. However, there are some simple precautions and gestures we can adopt to better protect our smartphones. This article will explore some key ways you can defend your phone and data from cybercriminals.

Use Secure Passwords

Having strong, unique passwords for all your apps and accounts is one of the most basic but critical security measures. According to a 2019 Google survey [2], nearly two-thirds of Americans reuse passwords across multiple sites. Password reuse enables cyber criminals to gain access to multiple accounts by cracking just one password.

Ideally, every account should have its own randomly generated password at least 12 characters long, containing upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. This could sound intimidating to manage, but password managers like LastPass [3] and 1Password [4] can generate and remember strong, unique passwords for each of your apps. Enabling two-factor authentication adds another layer of security by requiring you to enter a code from your phone when logging in from a new device.

Keep Your Software Up-To-Date

Maintaining an up-to-date mobile operating system and keeping all your apps on the latest versions is another fundamental way to stay secure. Developers frequently roll out patches that fix vulnerabilities as they are discovered. However, many smartphone users delay installing these updates, leaving them open to any flaws that hackers could exploit [5].

Turning on ‘automatic updates’ ensures fixes are installed promptly once they become available for your operating system and applications. neglecting updates leaves you playing catch-up and vulnerable. Quickly installing updates the moment they pop up on your phone is vital for ongoing security.

Install Antivirus Software

Antivirus software provides real-time scanning and threat detection to catch malware before it can infect your device. The top solutions like Bitdefender [6], Norton [7] and Avast [8] use behavioral analysis and machine learning to proactively monitor for suspicious activity and advanced threats trying to evade traditional signature-based detection.

Many leading antivirus apps offer both free and premium tiers across Android and iOS devices, with premium versions providing added protections. Independent testing continuously evaluates the effectiveness of popular antivirus apps to help determine the best options [9]. Installing a reputable antivirus suited to your device and budget is strongly advised.

Avoid Suspicious Links

One common pathway for malware or spyware to strike your phone is via malicious links in phishing messages or rogue ads. The link itself might install malware immediately once clicked, or direct you to a compromised site harboring threats. Phishing links are often deliberately disguised to look like legitimate emails or texts from trusted brands to trick users.

Refrain from clicking links from any unsolicited messages, pop-up ads or unfamiliar sites. Hover over and inspect hyperlinks before clicking if there is any cause for doubt. Be wary that shortened links often obscure deceitful destinations. Enabling link previews for messages can give you more context on their true nature. When surfing websites directly, stick to visiting known, authentic brands and sources to steer clear of malicious links.

Limit App Permissions

Apps only need permissions related to their designed functioning, but many request additional far-reaching access to your contacts, camera, microphone, location and more. Malware masquerading as apps takes advantage of overblown permissions to extract user data, spy via device sensors and track your whereabouts.

Review all permissions requested by newly installed apps and restrict any unrelated or suspicious access by toggling permissions off. Legacy apps you already have could also have unnecessary remnants of permission access that can be revoked. Refer to apps’ intended use and only keep relevant permissions enabled. Limiting permissions throws up barriers to malicious activity or secret surveillance.

Avoid Sideloading Apps

The safest way to download apps is through official channels like the Apple App Store [10] or Google Play Store [11]. While no marketplace has a flawless security record, these do apply malware detection checks and analysis on apps being distributed. However, users can still be tricked into downloading compromised apps that evade screening.

Sideloading refers to installing apps from third-party stores or websites with separate .APK files (on Android) or enterprise certificates (on iOS). Still, sideloading permits apps to bypass platform defenses designed to filter malware. Stick strictly to your platform’s official app store to avoid landing compromised software holding your phone’s data at ransom.

Conclusion

Our phones grant us incredible flexibility and connectivity in all facets of life. But with such intimate access comes substantial security risks if devices are left inadequately protected. Adopting core security precautions and gestures outlined here provide fundamental shields against mobile threats trying to steal your personal information or spy on you.

Installing updates promptly, using strong passwords, limiting app permissions, avoiding suspicious links and sticking to official app stores will help deny footholds for malware or phishing attempts on your smartphone. Paired with robust antivirus software, these habits keep you on the front foot against cyberattacks, maintaining your privacy, finances and identity. Put these measures into practice on your phone to lock out data thieves and hackers for good.

References:

[1] https://securelist.com/mobile-malware-evolution-2019/94732/

[2] https://landing.google.com/securitykeys/

[3] https://www.lastpass.com/

[4] https://1password.com/

[5] https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/security-alert-update/

[6] https://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/mobile-security.html

[7] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.symantec.mobilesecurity&hl=en&gl=US

[8] https://www.avast.com/en-us/free-antivirus-download#android

[9] https://www.av-comparatives.org/tests/mobile-security-review-2020/

[10] https://www.apple.com/ios/app-store/

[11] https://play.google.com/store

Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I'm the creator and editor-in-chief of Tech To Geek. Through this little blog, I share with you my passion for technology. I specialize in various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android, focusing on providing practical and valuable guides.

Articles: 1378

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