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There’s no question of smart phones’ positive impact on how we communicate. As phones are now one of our main computer hubs, the risk for identity and information theft increases.
Malware, malicious software installed on a device without the owner’s consent, is a rising problem in the world of mobile devices. Hackers have the tools to read text messages, listen in on phone calls, read emails, utilize a phone’s camera, access passwords, and track your location throughout the day. The best way to do all of this? Get unassuming individuals to download malware-laced apps.
McAfee, a popular computer anti-virus software company, reports that the problem is particularly prevalent for Android users. The second quarter of 2011 saw a 76% increase of malware, and the third quarter showed malware to be almost exclusively aimed at Android phones.
Being savvy about phone apps is one of the best lines of defense for avoiding malware and putting your personal and financial life in jeopardy. Here is a crash course on how to be app smart:
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Be Like the Cool Kids
There’s always an app in vogue among friends and family, and joining the bandwagon is most likely a safe bet. The most popular and highly downloaded apps are usually free from viruses and won’t cause any headaches. It’s when you turn to the unknown apps made by unknown developers that things can get less reliable.
In addition, pay attention to an apps rating within the store. If there are negative views, few downloads, or low overall ratings, look for another app.
Don’t Buy Free Versions of Pay-For Apps
Lots of great and legitimate apps are free, but many, such as popular games like Angry Birds, come with a price tag. Individuals with malicious goals often take advantage of people’s desires to get something free by replicating traditionally pay-for apps and hiding malware within the program. When searching an app store, remember to avoid such deals. As the general rule of thumb goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t Buy From Unauthorized Stores
Speaking of app stores, always buy apps from legitimate sources. Stores like the Android Market or the Apple app store monitor the content being sold, meaning that those apps harnessing detrimental software are found and tossed out. Unauthorized or independent app markets do not have the capability of weeding out the dangerous apps, meaning you’re more likely to encounter malware.
Read Through the Fine Print
People love to skip over the technical and legal jargon that accompanies a new download. But going through the fine print of the terms of agreement and the permissions is an easy way to catch any potential red flags that the app is not what it seems. If an app asks to access your email or do strange things like record audio if it has no relation to the supposed function of the app, then back away.
Download Security Apps
The same things that lead to malware can also help protect you. Lots of safety apps are available that function much like anti-virus software on a home computer or laptop. Norton Mobile Security lets you scan your phone for malware and lock your phone in the event of theft. Lookout Mobile Security also provides malware scans in addition to data back-up and GPS capabilities to help track stolen and lost phones. It is also available in a premium version for $3 a month that gives locking capabilities and a Privacy Advisor feature, which helps you keep track of what every app on your phone is capable of accessing.
Another wise app download is a password protector. Individuals often make the mistake of putting important passwords, pin numbers and other personal data in memos or other storage areas on their phones. Leaving that information unprotected is potentially detrimental. A password management app encrypts the information stored and means that you only have to remember one password to get access to all other passwords. 1Password is a great choice, especially for iPhone users.
About the Author: Lisa has been a loyal Android user for 3 years now and has personally experienced the horror of mobile malware. When she isn’t playing Angry Birds, she is blogging about Dish Networks Internet bundles for http://www.satellitetv.com/internet.html.