Are smartphone viruses a real threat?

Last updated: 20 March 2014

Today we’re using our smartphones the same way we use our computers – to surf the Web, make financial transactions, conduct business, and download software.  Increasingly, we’re also using the same device for personal and business use. So why aren’t we protecting our phones the same way we do our computers?  With rising threats of malware and other viruses, we should be.

How does malware get onto your phone and what harm can it do?  One common way you can be tricked into downloading infected software is through a method called “repackaging.”  The cyber criminals take a legitimate application and modify it to include the malware.  They then distribute it to a download site, where you think it’s the real thing.  This was, apparently, the most common way to attack in the first two quarters of 2011. Increasingly, reports are saying that phones using the Android operating system are the most vulnerable to attack and more recently there was a threat of juicejacking – the siphoning of information off a user’s smartphone while it is charged.

Once you’ve downloaded infected content, there are a number of ways that it can attack.  It may find a way to make charges with your phone, track your location, access your financial transaction history or look for corporate espionage opportunities by searching for business information.  There is even one Android Trojan that records victims’ phone conversations.

While this is the bad news, there is some good news – it is relatively easy to keep your phone free and clear of malware and other viruses.  Treat your phone like it’s a PC – never click on links or install software from any site unless you know 100 percent that it is trustworthy.  Put a password on your phone and ensure all content and information is backed up and can be deleted from afar, just in case it falls into the wrong hands. And lastly, check out some of the antivirus or other mobile security tools that are available – they are getting better all the time and will soon be commonplace on smartphones.