Are you aware your smartphone is susceptible to malware infection?

Exciting development to the capabilities of our smartphones and tablet devices often leave us blinkered to the exponential threats that co-exist with this intuitive technology and are evolving quicker than the next best-selling app.

Lookout Mobile Security has recently conducted a study which confirms that people are two and a half times more exposed to malware today than at the beginning of 2011. While we may have utmost trust in our mobile providers to counteract these threats with technical solutions, it could be argued that if you want something done, do it yourself.

Looks can be deceiving

Malicious software is commonly disguised in the form of repackaged gaming apps and uploaded to the Android app marketplaces. Repackaging describes the act of modifying a legitimate application and rewriting it to include malicious code. The ‘repackaged’ app is then republished to an app market.

It can be extremely difficult for users to distinguish a genuine app from a repackaged one and cybercriminals continue to exploit this weakness. In the same way we learned to adopt caution and avoid emails and links originating from untrusted sources, it’s crucial to the security of our mobile devices that we practice the same mantra with smartphone and tablet PC applications.

Primary target

As social media proceeds to dominate our lives, mobile malware is also being executed to set up botnets, which are often at the core of contemporary hacktivism and online-enabled protest favoured by Generation Y. In addition to this, identity theft is rife through the exploitation of mobile banking and payment systems.

People will always be the primary victims of cybercrime; high powered executives with access to valuable information are extremely popular targets for third parties with an unhealthy interest in jeopardising professional reputations. However, people are also sensitive to noticing abnormalities or change.

Use your instincts to detect vulnerabilities which may have infected your mobile device and take notice of strange behaviour, suspicious charges on your bill and slow performance; all of which may indicate malware.

Joint responsibility

If your organisation permits the use of mobile devices, whether company-issued or personally owned consumer devices, serious consideration ought to be given to the measures in place to defend against security vulnerabilities and enable the continuity of business.

Many businesses have already adopted technology that allows employees to connect to their company email, calendar and contacts from their mobile devices; it’s only a matter of time before your entire IT infrastructure will be accessible from consumer technology.

Statistics from Retrevo, an online shopping site, state that only a third of smartphone owners realise their devices are susceptible to malware infection, however, it is within all of our human capabilities to change that alarming fact.

Raising awareness of what individual users can do to protect themselves and the reputation of their employer through simple means, such as using strong passwords and keeping their operating systems updated, should be consistent alongside technical security measures.

Educating employees on the dangers of using public Wi-Fi to view sensitive information is equally as effective as putting barriers in place to prohibit this, and incurs significantly less cost. Contribute to maintaining the reputation that it likely took your organisation many years to acquire by exercising a little caution and trust your instincts, not your apps.

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Bernadette Palmer MA ICM, Dip ICM has been with The Security Company (TSC) for five years as Senior Communications Consultant. Bernadette’s in-depth understanding of the communications environment and the role of security awareness within organisations has been an invaluable asset for TSC in winning business from a wide range of companies. Before working for TSC, Bernadette was the Senior Employee Communications Manager for BT Major Business, BT Business and BT Products and Services; where she managed a team of communication specialists delivering a suite of services to internal clients. Prior to this Bernadette worked as the Security Awareness Manager for BT Security for six years where she gained an invaluable insight into the world of security within organisations.