The top 5 mobile security threats you can protect yourself against


Here’s the top five mobile security threats and how you can help protect yourself against them.

Did you know that every year, the number of threats your phone encounters keeps increasing? In fact, the number of new mobile malware types jumped 54 percent from 2016 to 2017.1

The bad news doesn’t stop there.

Once your phone is hacked, your other devices may be next if they are connected. That’s because your overall online security is only as strong as the weakest link in your chain of connected devices. Malware can spread from your hacked phone to your tablet or another mobile device through the connected network.

Here’s the top five mobile security threats and how you can help protect yourself against them.

1. Madware and spyware

Madware is short for mobile adware. It’s a script or program installed on your phone, often without your consent. Its job? To collect your data for the purpose of better targeting you with ads. On top of that, madware often comes attached at the hip with spyware. Spyware collects data about you based on your internet usage and transmits it to a third party. That data is then bought and used by companies to send you advertisements. However, seeing more ads is the least of your worries when it comes to spyware. It also collects information about your location, internet usage, and even your contacts. This makes it a problem not just for you, but perhaps also for everyone you know.

2. Viruses and Trojans

Viruses and Trojans may also attack your mobile devices. They typically come attached to what appear to be legitimate programs. They can then hijack your mobile device and mine the information it holds or has access to, such as your banking information. Viruses and Trojans have also been known to send premium text messages that can be costly.

3. Drive-by downloads

Drive-by downloads refer to any malware installed on your device without consent. If you visit the wrong website or open the wrong email, you might be exposed to a drive-by download that automatically installs a malicious file on your mobile device. The file could be anything from adware, malware or spyware to something far more nefarious, like a bot, which could use your phone to perform malicious tasks.

4. Browser exploits

Browser exploits take advantage of known security flaws in your mobile browser. Browser exploits also work against other applications that function with your browser, such as PDF readers. If you see that your mobile browser’s homepage or search page has unexpectedly changed, it could be a sign that you’re a victim of a browser exploit.

5. Phishing and grayware apps

Phishing apps are a new take on an old theme. In the past, criminals would send emails that appeared to come from a trusted source. They’d ask for personal information, such as your password, hoping you’d be trusting enough to respond. Phishing apps are designed to look like real apps, and a mobile device’s smaller screen can make it even more difficult to tell the difference. These fake apps secretly collect the information you input — passwords, account numbers, and more.

Grayware apps aren’t completely malicious, but they can be troublesome because they often expose users to privacy risks. In fact, NortonLifeLock found that 63 percent of grayware apps leak the affected device’s phone number and 37 percent provide device location.1

How to protect yourself against mobile security threats

Mobile security threats may sound scary, but here are six steps you can take to help protect yourself against them.

  1. Keep your software updated. Only 20 percent of Android devices are running the newest version and only 2.3 percent are on the latest release.1 Everything from your operating system to your social network apps are potential gateways for hackers to compromise your mobile device. Keeping software up to date ensures protection against most mobile security threats.
  2. Choose trusted mobile security. Just like computers, your mobile devices also need internet security. Make sure to select mobile security software from a reputable provider and remember to keep it up to date.
  3. Install a firewall. Most mobile phones do not come with any kind of firewall protection. Installing a firewall can provide you with much stronger protection against digital threats and helps you to safeguard your online privacy.
  4. Always use a passcode on your phone. Remember that loss or physical theft of your mobile device may also compromise your information.
  5. Download apps from official app stores. Both the Google Play Store™ and the App Store® vet the apps they sell; third-party app stores may not always. Buying from well-known app stores may not ensure you never get a bad app, but it will help reduce your risk.
  6. Always read the end-user agreement. Before installing an app, always read the fine print. Grayware purveyors rely on your not reading their terms of service and allowing their malicious software onto your device.

By taking just a few common-sense precautions, you can help protect yourself against madware and other mobile security threats.

Click here to learn how Norton™ Mobile Security can help protect your smartphones and tablets against digital threats such as risky apps and more.

Disclaimers and references:

1 NortonLifeLock, “2018 Internet Security Threat Report,” March 2018, page 52.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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