It’s easy to forget that the device in your pocket isn’t just a phone. It’s a computer millions of times more powerful than the systems used for the moon landings in 1969.
Yet according to the Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2019, 88 percent of the UK population had a smartphone - and we've never been more addicted to them. A third of UK adults have reported arguing with their partner about phone overuse. They also admit to regularly using it when with friends or watching television.
But while smartphone use is on the rise, so is mobile malware. Malware (or 'malicious software') is software that's designed to secretly control a device and steal private information. According to Symantec, Managing mobile device security continues to present a challenge for organisations. During 2018, one in 36 devices used in organisations were classed as high risk and 1 in 36 mobile devices had high risk apps installed.
It's not just Android
There is a common misconception with viruses on mobile devices: that Android devices are particularly vulnerable. In March 2021 one of the worlds leading cybersecurity experts warned of the alarming new surge in malicious apps posing serious threats to iPhone Users.
As of March 2020, the total number of new Android malware samples amounted to 482,579 per month. According to AV-Test, trojans were the most common type of malware affecting Android devices. In 2019, trojans accounted for 93.93 percent of all malware attacks on Android systems. Ransomware ranked second, with 2.47 percent of Android malware samples involving this variant.
So here's the lesson: avoiding one operating system won't protect you from mobile malware. Here's how to protect yourself:
- Always download verified apps from official sources, like the Google Play Store or the App Store, and read user reviews before downloading.
- Check what permissions an app is asking for before installing it. Even seemingly benign apps can contain malicious code. as you can see from this PCMAG.com Report.
- Install anti-virus software. Install mobile anti-virus on your Android device, and Apple device to help you stay protected.
Signs your phone has a virus
Unfortunately your phone may still become infected with malware, even if you're taking all the right preventative steps. Here's how to tell if your phone has a virus:
- Strange charges on your phone bill – Unexpected charges may be symptomatic of a virus. Malicious applications can make money by using your phone to send premium text messages or phone calls.
- Invasive adverts – Overbearing adverts are a sign that you may have adware on your phone. Adware can infect your device with malicious code.
- Contacts receiving strange messages – Malware can use your device to send spam texts, which can result in your contacts' devices becoming infected too.
- Poor performance – Like a computer, a slowdown in performance is a sure sign of infection.
- New applications – If new apps appear unexpectedly on your device, a malicious app could be downloading them onto your device. They may contain malware too.
- Abnormal data consumption – Malicious applications need to send and receive information from their creators via the internet. Your phone lets you see how much data your apps are consuming; look out for ones that are consuming more than you'd expect.
- Noticeable reduction in battery life – Poor battery life could mean that you're using a 'buggy' or badly-written app. However, it can also be a sign that your phone has a virus.
What to do in the event of infection
If you find out that your phone has a virus, it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Firstly, switch the device to airplane mode. This will stop any malicious apps from receiving and sending data.
Secondly, check your most recently installed apps. If there are any that have a low number of downloads, consistently low ratings and poor reviews on the App Store or Google Play Store - delete them first. This should remove any potentially malicious applications from your device.
Best practice suggests that no matter what type of device you have, you should install anti-virus software. This can carry out a scan of your handset for malicious software. ESET Mobile Security is Pensar's recommended choice.
Digital pocket protection
According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 3.8 billion. With such prevalence smartphones are only going to become a more lucrative target to cyber-criminals. But, with a little knowledge and pre-emptive protection, your device can stay safe.