Today’s smartphones allow us mobile access to so much more information than ever before. We can take charge of our schedule, email, texts, social networking, computing, Web browsing, banking and more. But what if you weren’t the only one that had control of all that sensitive information in your mobile phone?
Security applications are currently available for smartphones and most of them are free, but few of us take advantage of them. All it takes is for you to download and install an app that clandestinely allows another user to have the same access and control over your phone’s information as you do. There goes your contacts list, your photos and perhaps your checking account.
According to Symantec, there have been hackers who installed their own code in apps that were downloaded from the Internet that allowed full access to mobile phones, sensitive data and banking info included.
Last year, more than 32 million Android phones became infected with malware. That’s three times the amount of the previous year.
Currently, Android phones are more susceptible to these rogue infections than iPhones, simply due to the fact that Apple only allows downloads from its app store. With Android, you can get an app from anywhere.
The best course of action is to scrutinize what you download to your phone and use only trusted sources for those downloads.
If you must live on the computing edge as I do, at least install some protective utility to your phone. Most anti-virus companies that have apps for computers, also have apps for phones, and as I mentioned, many are free.
I now have a comprehensive utility called Advanced Mobile Care 3.0 on my Android. It is from Iobit, the folks who created Advanced System Care for your computer. So far, so good. It’s easy to use and to my knowledge, I have not been infected.
What they call a Swiss Army Knife of tools for the mobile user, it scans for viruses and malware, cleans clutter, has a battery saver, protects your privacy and has the ability to kill tasks, if necessary. It’s available from iobit.com or from Google Play on your phone.
The folks at AVG, McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, Dr. Web, ESET, Avast, Kaspersky, F-Secure, Sophos, Lookout Security and others have similar apps for download. Just as with tools for your computer, most offer free utilities as well as their premium versions of the same programs with more bells and whistles and better security. In the end, you get what you pay for.
You need to decide which you want by trying one or two. See how they work on your phone. Is the interface easy to use? Does it use too many resources that finding your way to other apps become encumbered? Does it have the intended protection?
Go to the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android) to see what’s currently being offered. Remember what’s at stake here. Even the paid premium versions of the security app cost only a few dollars. For what you get in return, it’s worth a few bucks for the protection.
Some of these utilities offer more than others, so take a few out for a test drive. Security is what we are after here, but if a junk cleaner or battery extender is thrown in, it may be worth considering.
When I look for an app to download, I take heed in what other users have said about it in feedback. Google Play is similar to CNET’s download.com in that there is user feedback. If too many users agree the utility is hard to use or it freezes their phones, I move on to the next one.
Often it’s the phone that had issues, not the app. So pay attention if it’s all HTC users or everyone with a Samsung that can’t use certain apps; it may not be the app.
Don’t feel too superior if you are an iPhone user. Just as with Apple computers, you are not invulnerable. Virus and malware writers have focused on PCs due to the sheer volume of them versus Apple products.
Now that Apple has a huge market in the mobile phone arena, it’s only a matter of time until the iPhones begin to become infected, too. It’s time we all took a hard look at our mobile phone security.
The ACLU recently argued with the FTC that AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile do not offer adequate security for their mobile customers. Although Google has beefed up security more with each new version of its Android Operating System, the phone companies have not.
Be it so, or not, I wouldn’t wait for your carrier to provide a defense against hackers for your mobile phone. It’s your phone, your data and ultimately it’s your responsibility.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.