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Mobile App Safety

Mobile malware activity has skyrocketed since first surfacing in 2004. According to the most recent Mobile Security Threat report from Sophos, a leading software security solution developer, mobile malware now affects roughly 110 billion app downloads. In the exploding app marketplace, unregulated programs and large-scale attacks can compromise users’ devices and information. Do not rely solely on your service provider for protection—use the tips below to avoid mobile traps and stay app-happy.

Watch What You Install

  • Download apps from reputable sources only; indiscriminately downloading free apps can open your phone to hackers from the inside. Shady apps can also target your contacts with text messaging scams.
  • Use discretion when downloading “free” apps; some apps collect information instead of fees. An app may solicit information purely for commercial purposes, but some apps are actually malware.
  • Never jailbreak or root your phone. Ridding your phone of limits imposed by the service provider also rids it of the protection installed by the manufacturer. Additionally, downloading illicit apps or using alternate app stores exposes your phone to malware and harmful codes.
  • Read customer reviews of each app before downloading. Some apps have been exposed for illegally copying contacts and information; see whether the app reviews suggest any cause for concern.

Safeguard Sensitive Information

  • Choose shopping apps over Internet browsers. Major retailers like Amazon and eBay offer apps that prevent phishing and web scams.
  • Don’t fall for fakes; make sure you download official apps for banking and shopping.
  • Log out of your banking and shopping apps as soon as you finish using them. While re-entering passwords is inconvenient, foregoing this precaution could give a smartphone thief unlimited access to your financial information.
  • Beware of in-app purchases; though these may be presented as one-time transactions, many authorize future transactions without user permission, leading to unauthorized charges from guest users, smartphone thieves, and accidental clicks.
  • Choose mobile banking apps that are known for proper session handling; this is indicated with messages similar to “Session Timed Out—Please Log in Again.”
  • Limit the amount and sensitivity of information you enter into your apps; each one can hold applications logs, transaction histories, and cached messages—often indefinitely. For example, usually, simple gaming or utility apps shouldn’t need access to your location and address book.

Keep in mind that the fewer apps you install on your phone, the less vulnerable your phone is to attack.

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