How would you feel if you found out that a pair of prying eyes had been following your every move? That someone had been listening to your conversations – personal and work-related? And that all these details had been sold on the online black market? If you’re wondering: “how would that be possible?” just take a look at your smartphone. In case of spyware infection, it can turn into a real cyber-espionage tool.
Smartphones, these days, have become more than just a simple means of communication; they are sophisticated devices storing documents and personal data, they are guides, consultants and even secret keepers. And cybercriminals are fully aware of that, which is why they are continuously developing mobile malware that can put your mobile security at high risk.
Research by Juniper Networks has revealed that from 2010 to 2011, mobile malware registered an increase of 155% across all platforms, and that of all types of mobile malware, spyware is the fastest growing. Also, according to Juniper’s research data, the amount of mobile spyware discovered from January to March 2012 has doubled – compared to the amount discovered in the last eight years combined – which makes it the fastest growing, most common mobile security threat out there.
What’s the deal with mobile spyware?
In a nutshell, spyware is a malicious program designed to steal and transfer data (documents, browser history etc.) to its creators, keeping you, the victim, in the dark with regards to its malicious actions. Not only does it invade your privacy, but it also allows cybercrooks to capture important information about you, sell it on the online black market, and make a good profit.
With the growing use of smartphones and tablets, the range of “commodities” that crooks can steal and sell has expanded, mostly because more and more mobile owners use their devices for work-related activities as well.
How can spyware get on your mobile device? Well, mostly because of you.
The most common way for mobile users to get their devices infected with malware is by unknowingly downloading malicious apps. Cybercrooks design their evil little programs to look like authentic games or other useful apps and put them online, on forums and even open app markets, like the Android Market. If you’re not careful when downloading an app, there’s a chance your device will turn into a spying tool.
In more sophisticated and targeted attacks on mobile users, cybercrooks might actually gather information on a potential victim and send them a message that looks as though it was sent by a friend or the IT guy working at the same company as them. The message usually urges the victim to click on a link and install some kind of legit-looking program needed to perform a certain task.
In such cases, not only your mobile security is at risk, but also the security of your company’s data. Here are some of the abilities of the mobile spyware discovered to date:
- Spot and steal mobile banking and social network credentials.
- Intercept and transfer text messages and e-mails to cybercrooks.
- Instantly record keystrokes, hence important passwords or codes.
- Intercept phone conversations.
- Steal GPS coordinates and track the location of a mobile device.
- Steal personal or company documents stored on a mobile device.
- Broadcast conversations held either in personal or corporate meetings – turning, in this case, the mobile device into a real corporate espionage tool.
Given the increased sophistication of mobile devices, you can expect ever-more sophisticated mobile security threats to rise as well. Regular users, companies and even public institutions can become targets in mobile spyware attacks.
Don’t let mobile spyware breach your mobile security and privacy
So what measures can you take to protect your privacy, identity and highly important data from these digital prying eyes and eavesdroppers? Here’s some advice:
- Make sure the app you want to download is “clean” and legit. Examine the name of the app developer, look for reviews and star ratings from other users, and only download from trusted and safe platforms.
- Carefully read the requested permissions from the app you want to download. See if these requests match the app’s features, and if you’re ok with them, start the download.
- Stay informed about mobile spyware. Also, spread the word among your friends and family about this mobile security threat – any items on their phones may include information about you; similarly, any private conversation you have with them can be recorded.
- Make sure you raise the issue with IT administrators at work. They are probably already aware of the issue, in which case, you may actually learn some tips from them as well, about how to protect your mobile security.
- Install an effective mobile security app that comes with antispyware features. BullBuard Mobile Security 10 comes with such features and more: anti-theft – so if your phone gets lost or stolen, you can lock it, wipe it and track it down easily – and parental control – so that you keep an eye on your kids and make sure their phones don’t get infected with spyware.