Brisbane, April 29
With nearly 84 percent of the world’s population now owning a smartphone and our dependence on them growing all the time, these devices have become an attractive avenue for fraudsters.
Last year, the cybersecurity company Kaspersky detected nearly 3.5 million malicious attacks on mobile phone users. Spam messages that we receive on our phones via text or email often contain links to viruses, which are a type of malicious software (malware).
There’s a good chance that at some point you’ve installed malware that infected your phone and worked (unbeknownst to you) in the background.
According to a global report commissioned by the private company Zimperium, more than a fifth of mobile devices have encountered malware. And four out of ten mobile phones worldwide are vulnerable to cyber attacks.
But how do you know if your phone has been attacked? And what can you do?
How does a phone get infected?
Just like personal computers, phones can be compromised by malware.
For example, the Hummingbad virus infected ten million Android devices within a few months of its creation in 2016 and put up to 85 million devices at risk.
In general, a phone virus works in the same way as a computer virus: malicious code infects your device, replicates itself, and spreads to other devices by sending automated messages to others in your contact list, or by automatically forwarding itself as an email. electronic.
A virus can limit the functionality of your phone, send your personal information to hackers, spam your contacts with links to malware, and even allow the virus operator to “spy” on you by capturing your screen and keyboard inputs. , and track your geographic location.
In Australia, Scamwatch received 16,000 reports of the Flubot virus in just eight weeks in 2021. This virus texts Android and iPhone users with links to malware. Clicking on the links can download a malicious app to your phone, giving scammers access to your personal information.
Flubot scammers regularly change their destination countries. According to cybersecurity firm Bitdefender, FluBot operators targeted Australia, Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria and other European countries between December 1, 2021 and January 2 this year.
Is Apple or Android safer?
While Apple devices are generally considered more secure than Android and less prone to virus attacks, iPhone users who “jailbreak” or modify their phone expose themselves to security vulnerabilities.
Similarly, Android users who install apps from outside the Google Play store increase the risk of installing malware. All phone users are advised to be vigilant as both Apple and Android are vulnerable to security risks.
That said, phones are generally better protected against viruses than personal computers. This is because the software is usually installed through authorized app stores that vet each app (although some malicious apps can occasionally go unnoticed).
Also, compared to computers, phones are more secure as applications are generally “sandboxed” in their own isolated environment, unable to access or interfere with other applications. This reduces the risk of infection or cross-contamination by malware. However, no device is completely immune.
watch out for the signs
While it’s not always easy to tell if your phone is infected, it will exhibit some abnormal behavior if it is.
Some signs to watch out for include: Poor performance, such as apps taking longer than usual to open or random crashes. Excessive battery drain (due to malware constantly running in the background). Increased mobile data consumption. Unexplained billing charges (which may include increased data usage charges as a result of malware chewing on your data), unusual pop-ups, and the device unexpectedly overheating.
If you suspect a virus has infected your device, there are a few steps you can take. First, to prevent further damage, you will need to remove the malware. Here are some simple troubleshooting steps: Use a reputable antivirus application to scan your phone for infections. Some reputable providers that offer free and paid protection services include Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, McAfee, or Norton.
Clear your phone storage and cache (on Android devices) or browsing history and website data (on Apple devices).
Restart your iPhone or restart your Android phone to get into safe mode, which is an Android feature that prevents third-party apps from working while it’s enabled.
Remove any suspicious or unknown apps from your list of downloaded apps and if you are an Android user, disable safe mode once the apps are removed.
As a last resort, you can backup all your data and do a factory reset on your phone. Resetting a phone to its original settings will remove any malware.
Protecting your phone from infections
Now that you’ve fixed your phone, it’s important to protect it from future viruses and other security risks. The mobile security apps mentioned above will help with this. But you can also: avoid clicking unusual pop-ups or links in text messages, social media posts, or unusual emails; only install apps from authorized app stores, such as Google Play or the Apple App Store; avoid jailbreaking or modifying your phone; check app permissions before. installation, so you’re aware of what the app will access (instead of blindly trusting it), back up your data regularly, and keep your phone’s software updated to the latest version (which will have the latest patches of security).
Continually monitor your phone for suspicious activity and trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.