The Risks of Mobile Spyware Apps and Their Solutions

January 24, 2018 by Yusra Aziz

Mobile malware apps have become the growing security threat of today. Ask anyone who has ever become a victim of prying eyes and they will tell you how disturbing it is. Cybercriminals are fully aware that more and more users now use smartphones and tablets to play games, download apps, use social media, conduct financial transactions and so, they have adjusted their attacks to the behavioral changes of users. Hence why we see a new mobile malware every other day to put our mobile security at risk.

In case you didn’t know, a malware consists of spyware, worms, adware, Trojans, and viruses. For mobile devices, the most common malware is Trojans and spyware. It can either be a mobile spyware app or a malware hidden in another app.

Juniper Networks Global Threat Center in 2011 conducted a research and found that spyware was the dominant type of malware affecting Android devices. It identified 63% spyware samples. Such mobile spyware app has the ability to capture and transfer your personal data like GPS tracking, record your text messages and even web browsing history.

From the same research, Juniper Networks found that a mobile spyware app can cause the following damage:

  • 30% of the apps can obtain the location of the device without asking for an explicit consent.
  • 7% of the apps can request permissions that could even initiate a phone call without the knowledge of the user.
  • 6% of the apps have the ability to scan all the accounts on the target phone which include not just emails but also the social networking sites.
  • 8% of the apps can send an SMS without the knowledge and involvement of the user.

The surprising thing is that there are no means for a user to identify that these apps are leaking your personal information. What’s in for an attacker? He invades the privacy of the device owner and exploits his financial information.

How Does a Spyware Get on your Mobile Device?

The most common way for a mobile spyware app to get inside your phone is through a malicious app. it can either be in the form of a game or any other app. If you are not careful with what you are downloading, chances are your device already has a mobile spyware app. Maybe you downloaded a spyware or a spyware within a malicious app.

That’s not the only way for a spyware to get on your phone. A target attacker may also gather the information of the victim by sending a message from popular hosts. The message urges the victim to click on a link, install something or even enter personal information. In such a situation, it is not just your mobile security that is at risk but also the data that your phone is carrying.

To be precise, a mobile spyware app can:

  • Look up for mobile banking and social media credentials and steal them too
  • Intercept your SMS, emails and phone calls
  • Secretly record the keystrokes making all your passwords vulnerable
  • Track your location
  • Steal the personal or business documents stored on your phone

The thing that has complicated the matter is the ability of Android devices to download apps from anywhere freely. Although this grants the user great flexibility on his device that also means your device may be home to multiple malicious programs. Google is quite quick in removing malicious apps from its marketplace but the third party app stores or websites, particularly in China and Eastern Europe, haven’t done anything to get rid of the malware.

How to Protect your Data from Spyware?

A majority of the mobile devices don’t yet have an endpoint anti-malware solution but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything on your own to protect your phone and the data stored on it. Here are some measures anyone can take:

Stick to the App Store

First thing is first. You should be very careful when downloading or installing apps. Don’t download apps from the third party stores, stick to Google Play store only. It provides reasonable protection against all kinds of malware. Before apps are added to the store, they are reviewed. To further protect yourself from accidentally downloading malware, go to the Security Settings of your phone and disable ‘Unknown Sources’. It will keep you from downloading unidentified applications.

Don’t use Public Wi-Fi

Who doesn’t like free Wi-Fi at public places? We all do but the truth is, this free Wi-Fi can release malware on your phone. The best advice is to avoid using free Wi-Fi. But in case you have to, be careful. Before connecting to the network, if you are asked to give your email, it is a definitely a trap. Lots of amateur hackers use public Wi-Fi to invade the privacy of the users, steal their credit card information and get access to other private data stored on their phone.

Use a Mobile Tracking Software

It is not necessary for an attacker to use the internet to release malware on your phone. What if he gets physical access to your phone? What if you misplace your phone and it accidentally lands in the hands of a hacker? He will definitely know all the ways to break into your phone. Don’t worry, you may lose your phone but you can still save important data.

Install an Antivirus

How can you carry a phone that doesn’t even have an antivirus installed? The truth is, no matter how secure your phone’s operating system is, the internet makes everything vulnerable. So, make sure your phone has an antivirus installed to keep scanning for malware.

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