Hacking of smartphones was in the news recently with the revelation by Lacoon Mobile Security that the Chinese government through a phishing scam lured democracy protestors in Hong Kong into downloading a malware ladened app on to their smartphones that enabled the Chinese government to monitor the communications of protestors. In this instance, smartphone users in Hong Kong were responding to a message on WhatsApp that read “Check out this Android app designed by Code4HK for the coordination of OCCUPY CENTRAL.” Those responding to the message and clicking on the link provided ended up downloading malware that enabled the Chinese government to monitor the smartphone users’ communications as well as provide access to all of the personal information stored on the phone. Code4HK is the name of a group of computer programmers who have been working with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, but had nothing to do with this software or message. As we all become more and more dependent upon our smartphones, use them for sensitive financial transactions and store more personal information on them, they have become an increasing target for hackers and identity thieves. Security company McAffee has said that the incidences of mobile malware increased 197% just between 2012 and 2013.
The key to protecting the security of your smartphone from the threat of malware is to not downloading the malware in the first place. One important rule to follow is to not install apps only from legitimate vendors. Most carriers will also provide security software for your smartphone as well as an app that will scan your smartphone for malicious apps you may have unwittingly downloaded. Check with your carrier as to what security software and apps are available to you on your particular smartphone. Never click on a link in an email, text message or other communication unless you have absolutely verified that it is legitimate. The risk of downloading malware is too great. Protect your smartphone with a strong password, install security software and encryption software as well as anti-malware programs such as the app Lookout which has a feature that continually scans your smartphones for viruses and malware.