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Are you at risk for a Smartphone virus?

Nov 08, 2018

Are you at risk for a Smartphone virus?

iPhone and Android users may be at risk for cell phone bugs. Learn how to ensure that your device remains virus free. While Androids may be slightly more at risk, iPhone users are not immune. With iPhone users increasing worldwide, hackers are devoting more time and resources to hack iOS systems agressively. Knowledge is power so please take some time to read this post to learn to protect yourself from the dangerously fast-spreading smartphone problem, worldwide.

Diligent cell phone usage can help prevent a smartphone virus.

Modern life is lived with a smartphone in-hand. We use our phones for everything - texting, work, online shopping, social media, banking, photography, scheduling, gaming, and phone calls. Some of our most sensitive, valuable data is stored on our phones, just waiting to be stolen or exploited by cell phone bugs.

Can cell phones get viruses? Nope.

Technically, Android viruses don't exist. A virus is defined as a program that replicates and spreads by attaching to another program. None of the phone bugs known to infect smartphones do this (yet).

While we may not have seen a true smart phone virus yet, malware is a common and serious problem, and most people use Android viruses and malware as interchangeable terms.

What is mobile malware?

Mobile malware describes a host of programing designed to infect smartphones with malicious intent. The goal of malware is usually the theft of personal information, including passwords and financial information. Malware can also place false charges on accounts and track the user's location and online activities.

Mobile malware was first identified back in 2004. By 2011, reports of new Android "viruses" were reported every month.

Android phone bugs.

Android cell phone bugs make up the clear majority of smartphone malware, as Google's open app development and distribution models provide hackers with plenty of ways to access your phone. Believe it or not, some researchers claim up to 90 percent of Android devices are infected with malware, making proper Android "virus" protection essential.

How malware infects phones.

Attackers often rely on user behavior to infect phones, whether that behavior be a willingness to click on a link forwarded from someone in their contact list or to download a "free app" from an unauthorized app store. Hackers may also exploit vulnerabilities in legitimate apps to insert malware into the once-harmless program.

Types of phone bugs.

Android malware comes in a variety of forms. The most common types are listed here, but remember, malware often contains elements of two or more of these categories.

  • Financial Malware targets all banking-related information. The goal of the phone bugs is to steal financial information for use in credit card fraud, bank fraud, and identity theft. Some financial malware can lift banking information directly from your transactions.
  • Ransomware is one of the most annoying cell phone bugs you're likely to encounter. The malware locks all your personal files and demands money to unlock the them again, often by downloading a "solution" that typically infects your device with even more malware!
  • Spyware describes malware that monitors and records phone activity, sending all information to whoever controls the spyware. Information recorded can include contacts, location, messaging and browser histories, user preferences, downloads, as well as your phone's OS version, product ID, International Mobile Equipment Identity number, and International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). Technical phone information can then be used to launch future attacks.
  • Keyloggers record any information you enter using your keypad, and relays that information to a third party.
  • Adware displays continuous pop up ads on your screen. Clicking on one of these ads often triggers the download of additional malware and unwanted apps.
  • Trojans are cell phone bugs that sneak onto your system hidden in seemingly harmless apps. Such apps may be designed specifically to transport the Trojan, or be legitimate programs infected with malware through security vulnerabilities.
  • Phishing tries to trick users into clicking links or buttons and providing sensitive personal and financial information, either through an app or website. The small screen of a smartphone makes it easier to make such requests look convincing as arriving from legitimate sources such as a popular financial institution, bank or credit card company.
  • Worms are a type of malware that spreads through SMS or MMS text messages. The fake message contains a link, that if clicked on, infects the message recipient with the same worm. The goal is to replicate the worm on as many devices as possible, often so further malware can be installed later.
  • Bots are self-propagating malware that operate as part of a botnet (a network of infected devices connected to a central server). Bots may be used to capture and analyze information packets, steal information, relay spam, and launch Denial of Service attacks.
  • SMS and Call-Making Malware are a subsection of phone bugs that make third-party phone calls or send unauthorized SMS messages.
  • Eavesdroppers aren’t the most common Android "viruses", but they do exist. Such malware activates your phone's microphone to record conversations. Scary!

Can malware infect iPhones?

iPhone users enjoy some measure of protection against malware, as the sandbox design of iOS makes it difficult for malware to bypass phone permissions. This does not, however, mean iPhones are immune to malware infections. Apps may be infected with malware if hackers can hijack an app's development tools, and the risk of iPhone malware increases if you "jailbreak" the phone (a method of removing a smart phone's built-in limitations, often to install pirated apps).

ZDNet reports a 2018 incident where a malware program gained access to iPhones by tricking users into downloading open source mobile device management software. The outbreak seems to have been limited to thirteen iPhone users. To succeed, the hackers somehow gained access to iOS permissions, possible through a campaign of social engineering targeting the victims.

Symptoms of Malware.

Some phone bugs present run almost invisibly on devices and can only be detected by running an Android virus removal program. Others cause noticeable (and sometimes expensive) symptoms such as:

  • Frequently frozen apps.
  • Failure to reboot device.
  • Apps you don't remember installing suddenly appear.
  • Difficulty connecting to networks.
  • Increased battery use, or fast drainage.
  • Unexplained increases in phone bill or data usage.
  • Mysterious monthly subscription fees.
  • Phantom credit card charges.
  • Consumption of processing power.
  • Hijacked web browsers or new browsers opening on their own.
  • Unauthorized text messages.
  • Device freezes or completely bricks./li>

Avoiding Phone Bugs.

Avoiding Android viruses depends, in large part, on how you use your smartphone. Most malware-containing apps are found on unofficial app stores and websites, many of which are based in countries outside United States and Canada. These stores offer "free" copies of for-purchase apps, designed to tempt people into saving a few bucks for pirated or cloned copies of popular apps. Such apps, and the sites they are on, are where much of the worlds phone bugs originate.

Instead of risking infection by using unauthorized app stores, you're much safer sticking to authorized sites like Google Play. If you really need an app from an unauthorized source, research the developers, their reputation, and any customer reviews you can find. Just be aware you're risking a malware infection with that "free" clone of Candy Crush.

Sometimes malware first shows up as unidentified downloads in your download manager. Don't install anything in the download manager you cannot identify.

Before installing any app, no matter what its point of origin, read the end user agreement to understand what permissions you're granting the app. And yes, reading a user agreement is up there with watching a live stream of tectonic drift when it comes to excitement levels, but it is important if you want to retain control of your phone's permission.

Check your security settings as well. Like PCs and laptops, if a smartphone has lax security settings, it is vulnerable to "drive-by" malware downloads, where simply visiting compromised websites triggers a malware download in the background without your knowledge.

When it comes to worms, be careful about clicking on links in SMS messages. Most worm links are simple - either the link is all that is texted, or you get a short message like "look at this" and a link. If in doubt, text your contact and ask if he or she sent you a link. Lookout for grammatical errors that are hallmarks of out-of-country hackers who're good at doing this kind of bad stuff but lack knowledge of the proper English language.

Android Virus Protection.

One of the best ways to protect against phone bugs is to install an Android antivirus app to scan your phone, alert you to threats, and aid in Android virus removal. Such apps should always be downloaded from authorized app stores, as malware can masquerade as virus removal software.

Most of the established PC antivirus software now have equivalent smartphone apps. Popular choices include:

  • Bitdefender Antivirus.
  • AVL.
  • McAfee Security and Power Booster.
  • Kaspersky Mobile.
  • Sophos Free Antivirus and Security.
  • Norton Security and Antivirus.
  • Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus.
  • AhnLab V3 Mobile Security.
  • Avira Antivirus Security.

Many Android virus protection apps are free to install, and you then pay to unlock additional features.

Android Virus Removal.

The most effective Android virus removal technique is to perform a factory reset. Doing so will get rid of the virus, but delete all photos, apps, contact lists, text messages - pretty much everything you value about your phone. A factory reset is the nuclear option unless you have all your data backed up. Fortunately, you have got a few options to try first.

Run your Android virus protection app. If the antimalware app is up-to-date, chances are good it will identify and eliminate the problem.

If this doesn't work, you may want to consider manually removing malware (if you're not confident in your technical skills, this is a job for your phone provider). Here're the steps you need to take for manual app removals.

  1. Reboot in safe mode. Hold the power button until the power menu appears. Hold Power Off until you get a prompt to reboot to safe mode, tap okay, and wait for the phone to reboot. If you can't reboot in safe mode, malware may be responsible, and you will need expert assistance or a factory reset.
  2. Delete unwanted apps. In safe mode, open Settings. Select Apps, then downloads. On newer Androids the steps are Settings > Apps and Notifications > See all apps. Remove any apps you installed around the time malware symptoms began and look for apps on the list you know you didn't install. To uninstall, tap the app icon and then search for "Uninstall".
  3. Clean Up. Run your Android virus protection app and clear your cache and history. Finally, back up your data in case in case of future infections.
  4. Reboot your phone.

Phone bugs aren't going to go away anytime soon, unless some very clever person comes up with a solution very soon. Or be prepared for emergence of true Android viruses in the near future because it is probably only a matter of time. Carefully selecting apps only from authorized app stores, coupled with a good Android virus protection app provides the best defense against phone malware, and helps protect your valuable data.

A final tip: Choose to use your mobile network vs a free unsecured network.

A final tip is to set your phone to "ask" before using an unsecured wifi connection. If no recognized and trustworthy secured wifi network available, then choose to use your smartphone plan's mobile Internet network whenever possible over any unknown free wifi that is unsecured because your phone can get hacked by such unscrupulous providers of free wifi. They may call the network by a reputable name but as we all know, we can name our wifi network anything we wish. They wait for unsuspecting users to come by and use their network that monitors all data passing through it to steal information useful for them. If your mobile service provider's data connection is not strong in any home, business or in vehicle, use a cell phone signal booster or suggest owner of home or business to use one so everyone visiting can enjoy fast and secure Internet access. Stay safe.

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  • Oh no. Don’t tell me you can get malware on your smartphone. I avoid sketchy sites on my phone and my PC, but this article scares me. I’m glad you can’t get viruses but this at least alerted me to the problem and provides some good solutions (even if you don’t want to install protective software). I’ll have to be more careful with apps I install.

    Gregory Wilde on
  • If you think you Apple product is immune to viruses, you’re deluding yourself. This article points out that they’re not as vulnerable as other products, but you can still run into the same problems. People need to be cautious with their phones, especially when they put financial data on them.

    Eugene Cochran on
  • It’s bad enough worrying about cold and flu viruses. I don’t want to have to deal with smartphone bugs (Okay, technically they’re not viruses, but they’re just about as bad). So while you can’t get a virus on your phone, you can get malware and that sounds awful. Glad there are ways how to clean your phone from malware (and better yet—prevent it). I try not to download anything onto my phone except well-known and trusted apps. Still, you can’t be too careful, especially if you have any banking or credit card information on your phone.

    Kevin J. Blair on

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