Malware apps on the rise, how to stay aware

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With your entire life being kept on your phone, you know how important it is to keep your phone secure, but with the rise of malware, this is now more important than ever.

According a new report by security group Trend Micro, Australians are getting more malware than ever before, as we download apps that aren’t what they say they are.

These apps might look official, but they’re anything but, and are leaving our life open to prying eyes, as apps with pretty hefty permission requirements are gaining access to all sorts of information.

In fact, the rise of these sneaky apps comes as we’re clicking less malicious URLs and are effectively trading one security problem for another, as the scamming email and website URL gets shifted out for an app, highlighting our obsession with mobile devices, such as the smartphone and the tablet.

With apps replacing the basic fake link, smartphone and tablet owners may need to become a little wiser and more aware of what they install, as Tim Falinski, Director of Trend Micro in Australia and New Zealand, points out.

“When it comes to installing apps, people will be vigilant when they have to buy them but they act differently when it is for free as the mentality is ‘it won’t cost me anything’,” he said.

“Generally it is in these free apps that are malicious in some way as the provider is trying to make money, and if they are not charging you for the app then they are getting it some other way.”

That “other way” might be as simple as an ad, a video, or possibly a bunch of little pop-ups that occur randomly and without notice, causing an interruption to what you’re doing with your phone.

Worse, though, is an app that you’ve downloaded from a fake app store, and these are real things.

While Apple and Google both have application scanning at play to check for security problems — Apple even does it by hand, if we recall — a fake app store can force you into a bit of bind, and so when you’re downloading an app, make sure it’s from a real app store, and not one of the engineered ones.

On the iPhone, this is a bit difficult to do, but with websites made to look like Android, owners of Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, and other Google-equipped devices need to remain in control and aware of what is being downloaded.

“Always get your app from the official app stores,” said Falinski, adding that “these stores have the strongest security protocols to keep out malicious apps. Also, take care in ensuring you are selecting the official app you are after and not some replica app.”

Replica apps or “clones” as most people know them are exactly what they sound like: fakes designed to look like the original usually to get the attention of anyone looking for that app. That’s not so different from fake app stores, mind you, but generally the fake app store is a little more malicious, and so it’s good to be aware of both.

Aside for the education of knowing what is what, security software is one of the best ways to not get caught out here, with mobile security becoming ever more important as time wears on.

“Users need to be aware of the security risks and potential malicious apps,” said Falinski. “They should also keep their devices and apps updated in order to keep their mobile activity secure against mobile threats.”