Mobile Malware – Are Cyber Criminals Infecting Your Smartphones?

virus_bug_credit_cardMobile is becoming an increasingly vital part of our daily lives, a reality marked by the fact that more than half of American cell phone carriers now offer smartphone options. The penetration of tablets among us is growing exceptionally rapidly, as well. Such popularity attracts the opportunistic cybercriminals out to capitalize on potential weaknesses in mobile device operating systems.

Are cybercriminals already profiting from your mobile tech? How do you know if your smartphone has been attacked? Is there anything that you can do about it?

One of the most common entryways into a mobile device is in the misuse of premium SMS shortcodes. Those are numbers that are six-to-eight digits long and are used for transactions such as purchases or donations by way of text messages. Though many of these shortcodes are exactly what they appear to be, there is a form of malware that can infect a device that will either access premium online content that is rarely seen by the users of the device, or it can begin sending shortcode messages to a criminal-owned premium code. This charges the victim through that individual’s mobile monthly bill. This type of malware often goes undetected for a long time as the purchases are quite small and they bury themselves among other purchases or fees. Sometimes it takes months for a problem to be detected, making it very important to pay close attention to monthly bills for questionable items.

Another type of malware that can work its way into a smartphone is in the form of very aggressive advertising. Many apps have advertising embedded in them to allow the developers to monetize their products. Typically, this doesn’t lead to any problems for the user. However, some apps with adware can become annoying to the point of aggressive. These can build notifications into the notification bar of the smartphone and they can add mobile browser bookmarks. They may even redirect users each time that an app is shut down, or insert additional ads into other sites. This can alter search engine results so that certain sites will appear closer to the top of the results list.

Spyware has made its way from regular computers into the mobile ecosystem, generating a considerable underground personal information community. This becomes increasingly dangerous as people use their devices for more sensitive purposes, such as banking and making purchases with credit cards.

Fortunately, there are some important ways to protect yourself, including carefully reading the charges on your mobile bill, being careful about downloads, and even using an anti-malware app such as the antivirus program that you likely have on your laptop.

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