The inevitable rise of smart phone malware -- and what you can do about it

The inevitable rise of smart phone malware — and what you can do about it

Cyber criminals have long centered on running their swindles on PC users. And they’ve been extremely successful in stealing personal information and stealing funds from countless people. Now these cyber criminals are unleashing their malware attacks on smart phones, tapping into yet another huge potential market of gullible users. This will come as a big surprise to nobody. Smart phones are growing in popularity. And plenty of users treat their mobile devices as miniature computers. They surf the Web, send e-mail messages and bank online using smart phones. Fortunately, you can easily do something to prevent mobile malware. It mostly requires that you use good judgment when navigating the internet through your smart phone.

Scary Numbers

It’s challenging finding data on the frequency of smartphone cyber attacks. But in a recent column, CNN Money writer David Goldman does a good job of scaring his readers. For instance, denotes a recent mobile malware hack on Verizon that allowed cyber criminals to steal debit-card numbers. That attack led to a loss of $20 million. That’s just one attack. Goldman cites numbers from Lookout Security that found that four in 10 smartphone users will click or swipe on an unsafe Web link in the next year. Also, he reported that anti-virus giant McAfee reported that mobile malware attacks have jumped by a factor of six. On the subject of protection, mobile phone users are lax. According to security organization SANS, less than a fifth of smart phones are protected by anti-virus software.

The Good News

These numbers shouldn’t cause smartphone users to toss their devices in the river. Regardless of the increase in mobile malware, cyber criminals are still focusing primarily on PCs. For just one reason, it’s easier. Developers have learned from their past mistakes, and have made it more difficult for cyber criminals to take over smartphones and other mobile devices. On top of that, these criminals are so successful in targeting PC users, they have little financial incentive to focus on mobile devices. Consumers, though, shouldn’t rely on this for much longer, Goldman writes. As smart phones will continue to increase in popularity, they will likely see a greater number, and variety, of malware attacks.

Protect Yourself

You can safeguard your phone from mobile malware attacks. Start by downloading anti-virus software from reputable companies. Be careful, though–cyber criminals could create bogus anti-virus software that doesn’t protect your phone but instead sends these criminals your personal information. Also, be sure to research any app before you download it. You need to make sure that it is provided by a reputable company. Finally, be equally cautious about phishing schemes as you would be while sitting in front of your PC. Never provide your Social Security Number, checking account numbers or other information in an e-mail. Your bank will not request such numbers inside an e-mail.