New virus threats for Android devices are outpacing viruses for Windows at a rate of 14-to-3, and cybercriminals have also shifted their attention to social media and even Mac OSX.
One of the unintended consequences for the smartphone and tablet makers who have helped to build a
post-PC world is that their actions are swiftly ushering in the era of the post-PC virus threat. Trend Micro's latest report shows that there are currently 350,000 detectable threats for devices that run Android.
To put that into some sort of perspective, it has taken three years for Android to hit this mark, whereas it took 14 years for the same number of virus threats to develop for the Windows-powered PC. What's more, Trend Micro is predicting that the number is on course to hit 1 million by the end of 2013.
As well as targeting mobile devices, making matters worse is that cybercriminals have started to exploit weaknesses in Java, rather than Windows, meaning that all types of computer, including Macs, are being put at risk each time a user launches the browser. It is also the reason why Apple recently released a patch for its operating system that essentially purges its computers of all use and recognition of Java.
Social media sites such as Facebook are also proving a popular target for cybercrime. Whether it's through counterfeit apps or messages pretending to be from friends, accounts being hacked and used to target the owner's friends, or simply that users are over-sharing information on their unguarded profile to the point where identity theft is simply a matter of time.
However, by following a few simple steps from Kaspersky Labs, most smartphone users should be able to protect themselves from the majority of major mobile threats.
-Lock a smartphone or tablet screen with a pin code and password. This may sound like common sense but the most recent figures suggest that only 20% of mobile device owners have enabled this feature.
-Install and enable remote services. All major smartphone operating systems have a feature that enables users to remotely lock, wipe or locate their device.
-Back up your data, either through a third-party service, by syncing to a computer or by manually copying files to a PC or hard drive. That way, if a device is stolen, only the handset itself is lost.
-Use encryption if your device supports the option, and use it whenever possible.
-Use antivirus. Some mobile operators have started bundling their own virus scanners on Android phones but it is always a good idea to locate and install a well-reviewed anti-virus app, particularly if a device is used for banking or making financial transactions.
-Jailbreak, root, or otherwise unlock your phone because it will make it more vulnerable to attacks.
-Connect to shared, unprotected Wi-Fi access points without thinking, as everyone else using it potentially has access to your data. If you must use the free wi-fi at a coffee shop or airport and it can be accessed without a password, sign out of all apps and restrict internet use to browser-based surfing.
-Wait to report a problem. Immediately notify your network administrator or other responsible security person if your phone has been lost or stolen. Treat your phone as though it is your wallet.
-Skip updates. Every time there is a new version of an operating system or app available, download it. The updates are usually released because of perceived vulnerabilities in the existing version.
-Assume your mobile device is any safer than your computer. Employ all the safety tactics you'd use on your regular computer to protect your smartphone or tablet. Check the address of the site you're trying to access, avoid clicking links in email or SMS/text messages, and avoid providing personal data whenever possible, even via SMS/text message.
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