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 as of May 2016, 81 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, the number of mobile vulnerabilities (weaknesses in a device's security system that can be exploited by criminals) has increased every year over the past three years. The volume of apps containing malware increased by 230 percent in 2015 - and that's just on Android.
There is a common misconception with viruses on mobile devices: that Android devices are particularly vulnerable. Although it is true that Android devices account for 97 percent of mobile malware, there's a caveat: the majority of this 97 percent relates to small, unregulated third party app stores in the Middle East and Asia. The figure becomes 0.1 percent when using an official store, such as Google Play.
This 97 percent figure is therefore comparable to those for iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phones. In fact, Symantec data shows that vulnerabilities on the iOS platform have accounted for the greatest number of mobile vulnerabilities in recent years.
So here's the lesson: avoiding one operating system won't protect you from mobile malware. Here's how to protect yourself:
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:
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.
There will be over six billion smartphone users globally by 2020. With such prevalence smartphones are only going to become a more lucrative target to cyber-criminals. But, with a little knowledge and preemptive protection, your device can stay safe.