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Do you need antivirus protection on your phone?


Written by a NortonLifeLock employee

 

If, 20 years ago, someone had told you that in the future people didn’t really use their phones to make phone calls anymore, you could have been forgiven for asking, “Well, if not for phone calls, what DO they use them for?”

It’s a long answer that includes everything from banking, emailing, and storing files to editing documents, staying in touch, and doing business. Our smartphones’ endless capacity to do things brings with it an endless number of ways your phone could present a security risk.

Your phone is essentially a small computer in your pocket and it could present a danger if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

What mobile dangers lurk online?

It’s not just paranoia: the number of security risks affecting mobile phones is actually growing. The latest research from the Symantec 2018 Internet Security Threat Report shows that the number of new mobile malware variants increased by 54 percent in 2017.

Still, according to Symantec 2018 ISTR , an average of 24,000 malicious mobile applications were blocked each day – with new threats emerging as app usage becomes more prevalent.

Take cryptojacking, for example. This phenomenon, which has until recently been limited to computers and happens when you install a suspect file, essentially turns your phone into a digital zombie, mindlessly “mining” cryptocurrencies for the benefit of cybercriminals without your say-so.

Zombie phones and other stories

As if zombie phones weren’t enough, there are plenty of other slots in the malware hall of fame, with malicious viruses carrying the capabilities to track your device without your knowledge; download and install apps; give control of your device to a cybercriminal, or provide them with personal information and data.

Safeguarding your device from danger is an obvious step. One of the options that might have occurred to you is installing an antivirus solution on your mobile phone. It’s a reassuring option – chances are you’ve been using an antivirus on a computer either at home or in work for years, and the likelihood that it has succeeded in helping keep you safe is quite high. So then, should you also install an antivirus solution on your phone?

What will mobile antivirus software do?

First, let’s take a look at what you can expect. The main function of any antivirus software is to scan your phone for malware (malicious apps and files) and alert you to any problems. Most also provide real-time alerts for any potentially unsafe websites you might visit, where the chances of picking up an unpleasant file are higher.

Some antivirus apps offer security features that go beyond just dodgy apps and files by blocking unwanted calls and messages or giving you the option to wipe your phone (remove all personally identifiable information) or to locate it if it has been stolen.

Staying safe on your mobile device

Regardless of whether or not you use an antivirus solution on your phone, there are certain things you should do as standard to stay safe as you browse. For example, don’t click on suspect links; never give away sensitive information while on public Wi-Fi; and use a strong password for any of your accounts.

Understanding your own risk level is very important too. Even if you’re familiar with terms like ‘phishing’ and ‘malware’, you’ll still need to make sure you only ever download apps from reputable stores. Likewise, some cybercriminals have duplicated or created popular fake apps and seeded it to the app store, where it’s downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, leaving behind a trail of adware and malware on devices around the world.

Cybercriminals have an increasing arsenal of tactics in their hands; knowledge of threats helps but a “belt and braces” backup of an antivirus app is always a good call, in case smart browsing fails.

Of course, less savvy mobile device users may easily be tricked into downloading fake apps, clicking on adware, or entering their information on a site they shouldn’t. A snare can be as simple as mistyping a common URL and clicking a button.

For this user, an antivirus app could be an important barrier between them and certain disaster. Mobile threats are growing and users need to ensure they stay protected.

Should you use mobile antivirus software?

The first step to staying safe online on your various devices is to remain vigilant and to learn the basics of mobile security.

As a starting point, always make sure to:

  • Assess the reputability of files and apps before installing them. Look for reviews in the app store; a poorly-rated app may be dangerous. 
  • Ensure your passwords are complex and well-managed. Think: at least 8 characters long, with a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols. 
  • Ensure your mobile phone and apps are regularly updated. Updating your apps and device patches any known security issues in previous versions. 
  • Be alert to the possibility of phishing. This is when you get a fake (and often realistic-looking) email supposedly from a company or friend asking you to click a link or follow a certain action. Only ever download files or click links if you know exactly what they are. 
  • Always use secure Wi-Fi connections. A public Wi-Fi connection can potentially be watched by anyone – so think of it like someone standing directly behind you and logging everything you’re doing.

The safest approach to using your phone online is twofold: browse carefully and use a security solution. If defence number one fails, you’ll always have the fall-back of your mobile protection. Norton Mobile Security can help you stay safe online by providing protection against mobile threats.

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