When smartphones first came out, it was pretty rare for them to get a virus. But hackers simply needed some time to catch up with the rapidly growing platform. Unfortunately, now they have caught up, smartphone users can be susceptible to attacks if they’re not careful. The sad news for Android users is that their phones are considerably more at risk to viruses than iPhones. That said, iPhones certainly aren’t exempt from malware. The idea that hackers can’t infiltrate Apple products was disproved years ago. So, how do you protect your smartphone from viruses that could put your private and precious data in the wrong hands? Here are five suggestions to help protect your phone from harm:
1. Download some anti-virus apps. Quite a few Android users have had success with the free AVG Antivirus app. This is especially useful if there’s already malware on your phone; you can scan the settings, files, and media in real time. If you want an Android app that does a great job of preventing viruses, NetQin provides a free option with plenty of features. As for the iPhone, there is currently one Apple approved antivirus app, and it is Intego’s VirusBarrier ($2.99, includes one year of malware updates). It does on-demand scans of files received by e-mail or on iDevices, and scans for spyware, Trojan horses, adware, keyloggers and more.
2. Rooting your Android or Jailbreaking your iPhone will provide way more customization options and features no doubt, but doing so can also potentially make your device significantly more vulnerable to malware. Ideally, the safest way is running the latest Android/iOS firmware (and not root/jailbreak your phone), but if you do decide to be adventurous and take that route, just know that the risk of picking up a virus will be increased, no matter how small. For those who’ve jailbroken their iPhones, it would be advisable to change their SSH passwords to prevent possible attacks (or disable SSH altogether). Redmond Pie has a guide on how to go about this.
3. Be just as cautious downloading on your smartphone as you would on your computer. Don’t download any attachments from unknown senders, and don’t download any apps before researching them to make sure they’re legitimate (this is especially true with Android users, as Google has an extremely lax approval process – unlike that of Apple’s App Store).
4. If you get a text/MMS offering a cash advance or a free prize, do not reply to the message. Needless to say, these text offers are 99.9% scams. The reality is that it’s very rare for a text offer of this kind to be authentic. If you do reply to one of them, you might be giving a hacker access to your private information and phone account. Many unsuspecting people in the past have received exorbitantly high phone bills because of this.
5. Always back up your mobile data somewhere. If your phone does fall prey to some malware, you’re going to want to still be able to access your data. You can save important files and information from your phone on cloud servers like Mozy and Dropbox. Thankfully, iOS 5′s iCloud feature makes this a seamless and pain free process. And one more thing about protecting your data. As obvious as it sounds, always ensure that your phone has a passcode enabled. While it may not be virus related, you can still lose your phone (or have it stolen) and end up sharing your contacts, info and other private data. Better yet, set it up so that your phone automatically wipes all the data after a certain number of failed attempts. iPhone users can do this by going into Settings –> General –> Passcode Lock –> Erase Data –> On.
So, follow the easy steps above and start protecting your smartphone from malware today!
This article was brought to you by guest contributor Ryan F., who has an interest in smartphone security issues, apps that make his life easier and Dell coupons for deals.