Device Security

5 Mobile Security Threats You Can Protect Yourself From

Jan. 7, 2021

Did you know that every year, the number of threats your phone encounters keeps increasing? In fact, the number of ransomware infections on mobile devices were up by a third when compared to 2017. The U.S. was the worst affected by mobile ransomware, accounting for 63 percent of infections.1

The bad news doesn’t stop there.

Once your phone is hacked, your other devices may be next if they are connected. That’s because your overall online security may only be as strong as the weakest link in your chain of connected devices. Malware can spread from your hacked phone to your tablet or another mobile device through the network.2

This article identifies five mobile security threats and how you can help protect yourself from them.

1. Madware and spyware

Madware is short for mobile adware. It’s a script or program installed on your phone, often without your consent. Its job? To collect your data for the purpose of better targeting you with ads. On top of that, madware often comes attached at the hip with spyware. Spyware collects data about you based on your internet usage and transmits it to a third party. That data is then bought and used by companies to send you advertisements. However, seeing more ads is the least of your worries when it comes to spyware. It also collects information about your location, internet usage, and even your contacts. This makes it a problem not just for you, but perhaps also for everyone you know.

2. Viruses and Trojans

Viruses and Trojans can also attack your mobile devices. They typically come attached to what appear to be legitimate programs. They can then hijack your mobile device and mine the information it holds or has access to, such as your banking information. Viruses and Trojans have also been known to send premium text messages that can be costly.

3. Drive-by downloads

Drive-by downloads refer to any malware installed on your device without consent. If you visit the wrong website or open the wrong email, you might be exposed to a drive-by download that automatically installs a malicious file on your mobile device. The file could be anything from adware, malware or spyware to something far more nefarious, like a bot, which can use your phone to perform malicious tasks.

4. Browser exploits

Browser exploits take advantage of known security flaws in your mobile browser. Browser exploits also work against other applications that function with your browser, such as PDF readers. If you see that your mobile browser’s homepage or search page has unexpectedly changed, it could be a sign that you’re a victim of a browser exploit.

5. Phishing and grayware apps

Phishing apps are a new take on an old theme. What we are used to is criminals sending emails that appear to come from a trusted source. They ask for personal information, such as your password, hoping you’d be trusting enough to respond. Cyber crimminals have now designed phishing apps to look like real apps, and a mobile device’s smaller screen can make it even more difficult to tell the difference. These fake apps secretly collect the information you input — passwords, account numbers, and more.

Grayware apps aren’t completely malicious, but they can be troublesome because they can expose users to privacy risks. In fact, Symantec found that 63 percent of grayware apps leak the affected device’s phone number and 37 percent provide device location.1

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How to protect yourself from mobile security threats

Mobile security threats may sound scary, but here are four steps you can take to help protect yourself from them.

  1. Ensure that your mobile devices are protected by installing Norton protection on them. Just like computers, your mobile devices also need internet security.
  2. Keep your Norton 360 mobile app updated. Your Norton software on your PC and Mac will automatically update, however you will need to update your Norton 360 mobile app with each new app release, unless your device is set up for automatic updates. Everything from your operating system to your social network apps are potential gateways for hackers to compromise your mobile device. Keeping software up to date ensures the best protection against most mobile security threats.
  3. Always use a passcode on your phone. Remember that loss or physical theft of your mobile device can also compromise your information.
  4. Download apps from official app stores. Both the Google Play and Apple App stores vet the apps they sell; third-party app stores don’t always. Downloading from well-known app stores may not ensure you never get a bad app, but it can help reduce your risk.

By taking just a few common-sense precautions, you can help protect yourself from madware and other mobile security threats.

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1 Symantec, “2019 Internet Security Threat Report,” February 2019, page 41.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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