When people think of viruses and malware, the first things that come to mind are cyberattacks that cost enterprises millions of dollars in damages. But with more people switching from desktops to mobile devices, hackers have also started infiltrating cellphones to get sensitive information from people.
So is it possible to get malware on mobile devices? Phones don’t have the same security systems as computers, which makes them more vulnerable to several types of malware. Mobile devices usually get malware from malicious apps, operating system vulnerabilities, suspicious emails, non-secure wi-fi and URLs, and text or email phishing.
Why Are Phones Vulnerable to Malware?
People use smartphones for just about everything – even for work. Most people find phones more convenient, less expensive, and more mobile when it comes to storing and accessing data that are important for work. But while it has its fair share of advantages, phones in the office might also be threatening the business without the user realizing it.
The main reason why phones are vulnerable to different kinds of malware is that most phones don’t have the same security systems that workstations and servers utilize. They don’t have built-in firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption systems like computers do. The company’s IT teams should have different policies in place when it comes to accessing important information through mobile devices to avoid cyber theft through malware.
Another important thing to remember is that some phones are more likely to develop malware than others – Android devices account for 47.15% of all infected gadgets while only around 1% of them use iOS. Make sure to consider these things before allowing mobile devices to access sensitive business information.
5 Ways a Phone Gets Malware
Finding out how a phone gets malware makes it easier for employees to avoid infecting their devices. Here are some of the most common ways that a phone gets malware and other malicious content:
- Malicious Apps
Apps and downloads are the most common methods that hackers use to gain access to mobile devices. Most apps from the official app store are safe, but some of them might contain malware if they come from non-legitimate sources. These malicious apps appear safe, but they’re typically filled with spyware or other kinds of malware.
Some developers also make the mistake of utilizing pirated development tools. This might compromise the quality of the app, because the end product contains malicious codes used for damaging the device or stealing sensitive data. Always remember to check the app store where you’re downloading the app to prevent getting malware.
- Operating System Vulnerabilities
Sometimes, the mobile device itself has different vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit to gain access. Most of these vulnerabilities are easy to discover and patch up for users who regularly update their software. Keeping the device up to date keeps hackers from taking advantage of the vulnerabilities in the phone’s operating system.
- Suspicious Emails
One of the reasons why employees use mobile devices for work is that phones make it easy for them to answer work-related calls and emails. But without the right cybersecurity education for the employees, they’re likely to fall victim to the malware in suspicious emails.
One classic example of harmful emails that get unsuspecting employees is when the email says they’ve won something. They’re taken to a non-secure link or a dummy site. Clicking the link allows the malware to enter the phone, making all the data stored there exposed to the hackers.
- Non-Secure URLs and Wi-Fi
Using non-secure websites exposes users to the risk of transmitting malware to the device. It makes the device more susceptible to “man-in-the-middle” attacks. When accessing these kinds of websites, make sure that the VPN is active first or that the phone’s antivirus protection is working well.
Sometimes, the phone’s browser itself is a source of vulnerabilities, which leads to web browser attacks. These are quite common in Android phones, so make sure to always update the operating system as needed.
- Text Message and Voicemail Phishing
Aside from suspicious emails, employees may also get voicemails or text messages from a seemingly trusted source. They usually ask for information about the victim or the device they’re using, which the hackers use to steal other important data like credit card information and social security numbers.
If you encounter something similar, the first thing to do is to check with the company’s phone and verify the call with them. Legitimate companies don’t ask for sensitive information through text, so never reply to suspicious texts until the concerned company has been directly contacted.
8 Signs of Malware on Phones
Most kinds of viruses and malware are made to steal and manipulate data, but they also affect the phone’s performance. If the device shows any of these signs, there’s a huge chance that it’s infected with the malware:
- Excessive Data Usage – Phone viruses usually run as a background app, which is why they’re often undetected. One good way to spot them is to check the phone’s data usage. A sudden and unexplainable increase in overall data usage means there’s malware in the device.
- Fraudulent Charges – Some kinds of malicious mobile content drive up credit card bills with text charges and in-app purchases. Hackers use the bank information to force users to pay for “premium” accounts which they collect the money from.
- Crashing Apps – Compromised phones experience crashing apps more often than other mobile devices. There are several reasons why apps may crash, such as too many running apps or full storage. If the apps are still crashing even after cleaning the storage or closing most of them, then it’s time to check the device for viruses or malware.
- Pop-Ups – Ads popping up on the screen is a normal advertising strategy when browsing through the web. However, if the device still has pop-ups even after closing the browser, then it might be caused by the presence of adware. Adware is a specific type of phone virus that’s used for data mining.
- Quick Battery Drain – Aside from the excessive data usage, the malware also drains the phone’s battery quickly because of the sudden increased use of RAM. Some phones may also have battery problems so make sure to rule that out first before checking the device for malware and viruses.
- Unrecognizable Apps – Apps that seemingly appear out of nowhere are usually caused by malware. Trojan horses often disguise themselves as legitimate-looking apps that cause severe damages to the phone. They may also attach themselves to other legitimate applications.
- Overheating – Since malware also consumes CPU and RAM usage, it causes the phone to overheat. Although the occasional overheating is normal for most phones, chronic overheating issues might be a sign of a more serious cyberthreat.
- Spam Text – This is a common type of malware found in most mobile devices. Spam texts gather sensitive data from the phone. They might also infect other contacts by sending malicious attachments and links without the owner’s knowledge.
Tips to Protect the Mobile Device from Malware
While mobile devices are prone to malware attacks, there are still a few ways to avoid them. Here are some helpful tips to protect your smartphone from cyberattacks:
- Don’t jailbreak the device. When a person jailbreaks their phone, they remove all the built-in security systems of the device. This allows them to do more with their phone, but it also makes the device vulnerable to different kinds of malware and viruses on the internet.
- Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks. Aside from a secure Wi-Fi network, using a VPN also prevents hackers from entering the network and interrupting the data flow. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows secure information sharing across different devices even when using public Wi-Fi networks.
- Install trusted antivirus software. Like in desktops, good antivirus software is the phone’s best line of defense against different types of malware, viruses, and other malicious content. Make sure to run the software and remove threats regularly.
- Keep the operating system updated. Sometimes, the phone’s operating system itself has vulnerabilities that hackers use to gain access to different kinds of sensitive information. Updating the phone’s OS regularly gets rid of these vulnerabilities because new updates have patches that eliminate the bugs from the previous versions.
- Never open suspicious messages. Strange texts, links, email attachments often lead to phishing sites. Never reply to suspicious messages with personal information, unless you’ve already confirmed that their source is trustworthy.
- Download apps from trusted app stores and sources. Apps are also another gateway to malware or phishing sites, so make sure to only download them from official app stores.
- Educate employees about mobile device policies. Since employees use their phones when accessing sensitive company information, they should be aware of the different kinds of malware, how dangerous they are, and how to avoid them. It’s also important to have security regulations about the use of smartphones for work.
Keep All Your Device Secure with Abacus
When it comes to strengthening a company’s cybersecurity systems, it’s important to treat mobile devices the same as servers and computers. Hackers exploit any kind of opening they can use to steal sensitive information from the company, so it’s essential to have a comprehensive security system that works on all devices.
Here at Abacus, we understand how important it is for companies to maintain confidentiality and security. Our team of IT experts is here to eliminate vulnerabilities, maximize protection, and provide the best cyber solutions for the company. Call us now to experience the Abacus Advantage.
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