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Sunday, November 13, 2011

McAfee’s top five tips for avoiding malicious mobile apps

Mark Bridge writes:

Mobile security - as I’ve said several times in the last few months - is becoming a hot topic. Although the number of mobile viruses and malicious applications is relatively small when compared with attacks on PCs, it’s on the increase.

Last week we talked to Eddy Willems, Security Evangelist at G Data, about the security risks facing smartphone users... and in the last 12 months we’ve also spoken to David Emm of Kaspersky Lab UK and Craig Heath from Franklin Heath about similar subjects.

Now comes a news release from Intel-owned McAfee Labs, which is sharing its top five tips to avoid downloading bad apps. The warnings are similar to the advice given by our previous guests - but they’re worth repeating:

1. For the moment, the amount of detected smartphone malware is relatively low compared to malware that targets desktop or laptop PCs; but being aware that it exists is the first step toward protecting yourself and your data.

2. Research apps and their publishers thoroughly and check the ratings - better to install apps that are broadly used in the market or are recommended by your circle of friends and colleagues.

3. It is wise to purchase from a well-known reputable app store market, such as the Android Market. One way for Android users to avoid installation of non-market applications is to de-select the ‘Unknown sources’ option in the Applications Settings menu on their device. If the option is not listed, it means your mobile service provider has already done this for the user.

4. When you install an app, you’ll see a list of permissions for services that are granted access to the hardware and software components on your device, like contacts, camera and location. If something in the permissions screen doesn’t look right, don’t install that app!  For example, a game or alarm clock app probably shouldn’t need to access your contacts or have the ability to transmit that data from your device.

5. Install antivirus software on your phone. It is a good idea to install an antivirus program when you get a new mobile device before you add any other apps.

Vincent Weafer, senior vice president at McAfee Labs, said “Maliciously modified apps have started to become more prevalent. Based on McAfee detections, we’ve seen approximately 200 malicious apps versus tens of thousands of good apps. However, with mobile devices becoming a targeted platform for malware, it’s becoming more common for cybercriminals to attempt to corrupt a legitimate app. The best advice for users is to be careful, protect the mobile device and the mobile apps that reside on the device.”

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