Mo­bile mal­ware threat on the rise


Cath’s day was like any other – un­til she picked up her phone. It was dead ex­cept for a spin­ning penguin on its screen.

Her phone was locked and trapped in­side was a year’s worth of ir­re­place­able pho­tos, mes­sages, ap­point­ments and con­tacts.

For Cath this was dev­as­tat­ing: ‘‘I thought I had ev­ery­thing saved to the SIM, but that had been com­pletely stripped of all in­for­ma­tion, pho­tos, con­tacts, and texts. The pho­tos in par­tic­u­lar were the hard­est loss to bear.’’

Send­ing her phone to her telco proved fruit­less – they were un­able to fix it. It wasn’t a hard­ware fail­ure. The only op­tion that made any sense was mal­ware, ma­li­cious soft­ware that is used to dis­rupt de­vices.

Mo­bile mal­ware is be­com­ing more com­mon­place both in New Zealand and over­seas.

Mark Gor­rie, Sy­man­tec’s Aus­tralasian man­ager, said ran­somware at­tacks (which sees PCS smart­phones and other de­vices en­crypted and locked un­til a fee gets paid) has in­creased by 163 per cent in the past 12 months.

Our part of the world is the third-most tar­geted re­gion for ran­somware at­tacks.

Ac­cord­ing to Sy­man­tec, cy­ber­crime is also grow­ing. Iden­tity thefts hap­pen on av­er­age ev­ery two sec­onds. Cy­ber­crime af­fected 668 mil­lion peo­ple from 21 coun­tries this year. Phish­ing at­tacks and other cy­ber-fraud cost US$126 bil­lion ($180b) glob­ally last year.

Phones are in­creas­ingly tar­geted by cy­ber crim­i­nals as more peo­ple use them for on­line shop­ping. The trou­ble is, it can be dif­fi­cult to tell if a web­site is gen­uine with a mo­bile browser and it can be easy to click an in­no­cent-look­ing link or ad­vert that then in­stalls mal­ware on your phone.

Voda­fone of­fers six tips to avoid mal­ware.

Only in­stall ap­pli­ca­tions from of­fi­cial app stores: If you own an An­droid de­vice, you can set it to only al­low au­tho­rised apps to be down­load from the Google Play store. Ap­ple de­vices only al­low apps from its store.

Do not jail­break/root your de­vice as this ex­poses it to threats.

Do not use the same user­name/ pass­words across all your apps or sites.

En­sure your de­vice has a pass­word or PIN en­abled. If it has a fin­ger­print scan­ner, use it.

Keep the op­er­at­ing sys­tem up to date. Do­ing so en­sures your de­vice gets pro­tected against any cur­rent vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that could be ex­ploited by mal­ware.

In­stall a mo­bile se­cu­rity app (it’ll de­tect and block mal­ware) as well as a cloud-based photo app which will back up pho­tos so they’re not lost should your phone be stolen/ bro­ken or hacked.

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