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The threat of mobile malware to your personal data

The threat of mobile malware to your personal data

2/26/2014

You may want to think twice before downloading that new mobile app everyone is talking about. Even some of today's most popular apps are being found to have weak security measures, indicating a need for smartphone users to be cautious about the apps they choose to download.

Popularity is not an indicator of protection
​Snapchat, the photo messaging app, is currently under fire due to the recent exploit of a weakness of its security system, allowing a group of researchers to collect the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million users and post them on a site called SnapchatDB.info, as noted by The New York Times. On the same day that Snapchat's user data was leaked, hackers claiming to belong to the Syrian Electronic Army infiltrated the service's social media accounts, raising questions about the adequacy of security features.

One lesson smartphone users can learn from these incidents is that just because an app is popular, this doesn't mean it is secure. Snapchat is a young company that gained popularity quickly, so it may not have the personnel to develop a strong security system yet, as Snapchat hacker Steven Hickson told CSO Online.

Mobile malware is a growing threat
According to a January 2014 study released by Alcatel-Lucent, mobile malware infections increased by 20 percent in 2013. The infection rate remained flat for home networks, which seems to indicate that malware developers are now focused on attacking mobile platforms. Perhaps malware developers have realized that the faulty security systems of new consumer apps provide an easier route to collecting an individual's information. Android devices were shown to be particularly weak in terms of protective measures - 60 percent of all network infections occurred on Android phones. Third-party app vendors like the Google Play Store offer applications prone to malware infections, so customers may want to research whether or not an app has a history of data breaches before downloading it.

The consequences of malware infections can range from personal data theft to giving hackers the ability to track your location. Smartphone owners who use their devices as part of their employers' BYOD programs will want to be especially careful with the apps they download. Malware attacks can allow hackers to gain access to private company information stored on your phone, thereby hurting both you and your entire company.

How you can stay secure
When it comes to protecting your device from malware attacks, don't rely on ordinary mobile phone insurance to help you. In addition to using your own judgment regarding the safety of apps, be sure to have a plan that will protect the personal information stored on your phone. ProtectCELL's data protection plan, for instance, allows smartphone users to back up the contacts, texts and photos on their devices, and erase personal information if necessary. Personal data can be lucrative information for hackers, so be sure to keep security a top priority in every decision you make regarding your smartphone.

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