Can your phone or tablet get a virus?

Gone are the days when all of your interaction with the internet was done at a computer. Our mobile phones no longer hold just names and telephone numbers as we now use them to access websites, social media and software applications. Tablet computers have also enabled us to use the internet while we’re on the move or from the comfort of our living room. So, if you have anti-virus software or security software to protect your computer, do you need it on your phone or tablet too?
The answer is a resounding YES. The creation of malicious software (malware) for Android in particular (the operating system found on many smartphones and tablets) has jumped significantly in recent months. This is mainly due to the creators switching their focus to Android, which now has a significant presence in the market. They also know that most Android-based devices are not running any security software. However, don’t think that your iPhone or iPad is immune either.

So what exactly is at stake here? Well, malware can allow hackers to gain access to any personal information on your phone or tablet, which can then be on-sold to identity thieves and also used to spam other device users. This can include your messages, your contact list, your photos, your location and any information you’ve created using an installed application (e.g. notes or documents). Phone malware can also be used to secretly send premium rate text messages or make calls to premium numbers from your account. As this activity does not show in your Sent folder or Call History, you won’t even know it’s happening until you get your account statement or run out of credit.

Most commonly, malware lurks in software applications (apps) that seem innocent but may actually be pirated versions of genuine apps, ‘free levels’ of popular games or even fake security tools. There is also a growing concern about malware hidden behind ‘URL shorteners’ (like bit.ly, t.co and cl.ly). These tools are used to display a short version of a long internet address and hide the target location of the internet site where you will actually end up.

Malware usually relies on your acceptance before it can install, so you can protect yourself with some good habits:

  • Avoid installing apps that you’re not familiar with including software that wants to download and install automatically from websites.
  • Be wary of free apps and those with prices that seem too good to be true, compared to their usual price.
  • Confirm whether friends or family really did send you a message before clicking on any links.
  • Be wary of online contests or promotions to win free gadgets, other products or services.
  • Install a reputable anti-malware app. Learn how to use it and keep it updated and what the alerts looks like.
  • Contact us and ask about the best anti-malware solution for your phones and tablets, or for any of your technology needs.
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