Aren’t those mobile apps just great? And with thousands of them swarming on Android Market, you certainly have a large pool of time-fillers and information sources to pick and choose from.
The Android platform’s openness is part of what makes it attractive to users, because it offers more control over their devices and the apps they install. Plus, everyone gets the chance to post an app for download in the Market, without any previous application reviews from Google who owns it. But the freedom users appreciate is also the downside of the platform: cybercriminals exploit it by posting malware-spreading apps in devious attempts to steal personal details and advertisers use it as a marketing channel by bundling pushy ads with apps. In the first case, the users’ mobile security is clearly compromised. In the second one, the ad-app bundle is seldom mentioned, so users who download it unknowingly face a mobile privacy threat.
Android popularity versus mobile security
According to Cnet.com, Android’s increase in popularity and its openness have triggered a great rise in malware-spreading apps via the Android store. The most common Android malicious apps are/contain spyware and (SMS) Trojans that:
- collect and send GPS coordinates, contact lists, e-mail addresses etc. to third parties
- send SMSs to premium-rate numbers
- subscribe infected phones to premium services
- record phone conversations and send them to attackers
- take control over the infected phone
- download other malware onto infected phones
Clearly, this cybercriminal’s “gold rush” is bad news for your mobile security. The tricky thing is that Android malicious apps can take on various forms, from app installers to pirated versions of popular apps. But there are ways to avoid these mobile security risks – see below.
Some recently discovered examples of malware carrying apps: DroidDream, DroidKungFu, Geinimi, ANDROIDOS_NICKISPY.C, Google++.
Fun Android apps versus mobile privacy
If your phone works on the Android platform, then you should have at least a tiny bit of experience with Android apps. Unfortunately, while they’re both a lot of fun, popular, free to download and hassle-free to upload, they are also perfect for carrying mobile ads:
- “push notifications ads” delivering alerts to a phone's notification bar – when the user swipes to pull down the notification bar from the top of the screen, an ad shows up under Notifications.
- “icon ads” inserted onto a phone’s start screen – when the user touches the icon, it usually launches a search engine or a web service.
Mobile marketing companies have started to use these types of adware in an aggressive manner, bundling them with popular Android apps. Problem is many of the apps give no warning about the piggybacking ad, which poses a mobile privacy invasion problem.
So if you were wondering how that icon appeared on your phone’s start screen, or why ads fill your notification bar, mobile adware is your answer.
How to maintain your security and privacy in mobile web
Here are some tips for you to avoid mobile security risks and mobile privacy invasions:
- Use your smartphone’s built-in security features and disable the Wi-Fi auto-connect option.
- Examine closely the name of the app’s developer, reviews and star ratings and only download it if everything looks safe and trustworthy. No matter if you download apps from Android or other platforms, make sure the source is trusted and safe.
- Carefully read the permissions that an app requests and make sure they match the app’s features. If you’re comfortable with them, then you can accept them and start the download. Here’s more information on what exactly these permissions mean.
- If those ads bundled up with the apps you download really start pushing your nerves, check out what marketing companies they come from, go on their websites and opt out of receiving ads. You can also maintain your mobile privacy by installing an app that detects ads and offers you the possibility to uninstall them – you can find such apps on the Android store.
- If your phone starts “acting” abnormally, sending unusual SMSs or registering strange network activity, it could be infected with a virus or other malware. In this case, an antivirus for Android phones would really come in handy. BullGuard Mobile Security 10 is a comprehensive mobile security app containing antivirus for Android, as it is fully compatible with Android phones and provides not only antivirus, but antispyware protection also, on top of other effective mobile security features.