The BullGuard products and services are part of NortonLifeLock Inc., a global leader in consumer Cyber Safety with a portofolio of brands including Norton, Avira and more. Learn more at

Mobile drive-by downloads - Dangers and safety measures - BullGuard


You never know when malware can sneak up on you.


Now that you can browse the web and check your e-mails anywhere, at any time, from your smartphone, you have more control over your actions. But acting on rapid mode might make you less attentive to visual details in your search results, e-mails etc. Also, the mobile screen, because of its small size, cannot comprise all the elements you’re used to see on a PC screen. Even though this may seem like simplifying things, it actually makes it more difficult to spot virus activity. And thus, cybercrooks’ mobile security attacks and scams are more successful. Even those initially designed for PC, which you might otherwise easily recognize on the “big screen”.


This is the case with drive-by downloads. Cybercrooks have figured a way to adapt them to the mobile environment and now the risks of falling victim to them are significantly higher. More so if you don’t have proper mobile antivirus protection.



What’s the deal with drive-by downloads?


The drive-by download technique has been used in computer infections for some time now. It basically refers to downloads of files that you don’t know are taking place – often spyware, a Trojan or some other form of malware.


How does it work? – by exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers, additional browser software or lowered security settings.


How can you trigger it? – by visiting a compromised website, viewing an e-mail or by clicking on a misleading pop-up window. In some cases, users who want to download, say a browser add-on they’ve seen on a not-so-reputable website, may end up installing the add-on and a sneaky piece of malware, too.



Drive-by downloads versus mobile security


On smartphones, especially those with little or no mobile antivirus protection, drive-by downloads work pretty much the same way. But there have been cases where the user triggered a drive-by download by clicking on a malicious link in a text message – this being part of the whole “adapting to mobile devices” idea. Here are two scenarios that paint a clearer picture of how drive-by downloads can compromise your mobile security:


  • You browse the web on your smartphone. You go to a webpage and suddenly, a small window, looking like the one that usually appears when someone calls you, pops up on your screen. You click on that window to answer the alleged call, and a file starts downloading to your phone. Without a doubt that’s malware compromising your mobile security. The same could happen with an ad suddenly popping up on your screen.


  • You receive an SMS supposedly from your mobile network operator urging you to click on a link it provides. Once you click on it, you go to a website which exploits your mobile browser and silently plants a Trojan on your smartphone. The malware gives cybercrooks remote access to your device, which, clearly, is a dangerous threat to your mobile security. Such links can also be embedded in phishing e-mails.


The most common mobile drive-by downloads are those exploiting mobile browser vulnerabilities. They enable crooks to remotely run commands within the phone’s operating system and change the way it works. It’s similar to rooting or jailbreaking the device – by cybercrooks and without your knowledge! These are the usual steps:


  1. 1. You go to a malicious webpage from your smartphone, by clicking on a link in an e-mail/SMS, when browsing.
  2. 2. The webpage contains malware that exploits your mobile browser, enabling a connection between the mobile device and a cybercrook.
  3. 3. The crook breaches your mobile security by sending commands to gather mobile data such as phone contacts, Skype contacts, login credentials etc., or even tracking your phone location.



How to avoid a mobile drive-by download


With the increasing number of smartphone users, this technique has become very popular among cybercrooks who want to breach their mobile security – which means, you’re more exposed than ever. What can you do to steer clear from it?


  1. 1. If, while browsing the web you get a dubious pop-up screen that prompts you to click on it, don’t. If you do, and the pop-up starts downloading a file – stop it immediately.
  2. 2. Be vigilant when browsing the web and pay attention to visual details. Also be suspicious of any unsolicited and/or alarming SMS/e-mail coming from your mobile network operator and even from your bank. If they ask you for personal details or to click on a link – it’s best you contact them to check the validity of the message.
  3. 3. Keep your mobile operating system and applications up-to-date.
  4. 4. Make sure you have proper mobile antivirus protection on your phone. A mobile antivirus app from a reputable security provider goes a long way in safeguarding your device. BullGuard Mobile Security 10 comes with an antivirus engine that provides real-time protection against malware, and additional mobile security features for overall mobile security.



BullGuard Mobile Security 10

BullGuard Mobile Security 10

One of the broadest line-up of mobile security features on the market
Total remote control over your smartphone
Free 24/7 Support in English

Buy Mobile Security 10

Was this article helpful?