It’s hard to imagine a world without cellphones. Whether it be a smartphone or a flip phone, these devices have truly shaped the late 20th century and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But while users have become accustomed to having almost everything they could ever want at fingertips length, cybercriminals were busy setting up shop. To trick unsuspecting users, cybercriminals have set up crafty mobile threats – some that users may not even be fully aware of. These sneaky cyberthreats include SMSishing, fake networks, malicious apps, and grayware, which have all grown in sophistication over time. This means users need to be equipped with the know-how to navigate the choppy waters that come with these smartphone-related cyberthreats. Let’s get started.
Watch out for SMSishing Hooks
If you use email, then you are probably familiar with what phishing is. And while phishing is commonly executed through email and malicious links, there is a form of phishing that specifically targets mobile devices called SMSishing. This growing threat allows cybercriminals to utilize messaging apps to send unsuspecting users a SMSishing message. These messages serve one purpose – to obtain personal information, such as logins and financial information. With that information, cybercriminals could impersonate the user to access banking records or steal their identity.
While this threat was once a rarity, it’s rise in popularity is two-fold. The first aspect being that users have been educated to distrust email messages and the second being the rise in mobile phone usage throughout the world. Although this threat shows no sign of slowing down, there are ways to avoid a cybercriminal’s SMSishing hooks. Get started with these tips:
- Always double-check the message’s source. If you receive a text from your bank or credit card company, call the organization directly to ensure the message is legit.
- Delete potential SMSishing Do not reply to or click on any links within a suspected malicious text, as that could lead to more SMSishing attempts bombarding your phone.
- Invest in comprehensive mobile security. Adding an extra level of security can not only help protect your device but can also notify you when a threat arises.
Public Wi-Fi Woes
Public and free Wi-Fi is practically everywhere nowadays, with some destinations even having city-wide Wi-Fi set up. But that Wi-Fi users are connecting their mobile device to may not be the most secure, given cybercriminals can exploit weaknesses in these networks to intercept messages, login credentials, or other personal information. Beyond exploiting weaknesses, some cybercriminals take it a step further and create fake networks with generic names that trick unsuspecting users into connecting their devices. These networks are called “evil-twin” networks. For help in spotting these imposters, there are few tricks the savvy user can deploy to prevent an evil twin network from wreaking havoc on their mobile device:
- Look for password-protected networks. As strange as it sounds, if you purposely enter the incorrect password but are still allowed access, the network is most likely a fraud.
- Pay attention to page load times. If the network you are using is very slow, it is more likely a cybercriminal is using an unreliable mobile hotspot to connect your mobile device to the web.
- Use a virtual private network or VPN. While you’re on-the-go and using public Wi-Fi, add an extra layer of security in the event you accidentally connect to a malicious network. VPNs can encrypt your online activity and keep it away from prying eyes.
Malicious Apps: Fake It till They Make It
Fake apps have become a rampant problem for Android and iPhone users alike. This is mainly in part due to malicious apps hiding in plain sight on legitimate sources, such as the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. After users download a faulty app, cybercriminals deploy malware that operates in the background of mobile devices which makes it difficult for users to realize anything is wrong. And while users think they’ve just downloaded another run-of-the-mill app, the malware is hard at work obtaining personal data.
In order to keep sensitive information out of the hands of cybercriminals, here are a few things users can look for when they need to determine whether an app is fact or fiction:
- Check for typos and poor grammar. Always check the app developer name, product title, and description for typos and grammatical errors. Often, malicious developers will spoof real developer IDs, even just by a single letter or number, to seem legitimate.
- Examine the download statistics. If you’re attempting to download a popular app, but it has a surprisingly low number of downloads, that is a good indicator that an app is most likely fake.
- Read the reviews. With malicious apps, user reviews are your friend. By reading a few, you can receive vital information that can help you determine whether the app is fake or not.
The Sly Operation of Grayware
With so many types of malware out in the world, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But there is one in particular that mobile device users need to be keenly aware of called grayware. As a coverall term for software or code that sits between normal and malicious, grayware comes in many forms, such as adware, spyware or madware. While adware and spyware can sometimes operate simultaneously on infected computers, madware — or adware on mobile devices — infiltrates smartphones by hiding within rogue apps. Once a mobile device is infected with madware from a malicious app, ads can infiltrate almost every aspect on a user’s phone. Madware isn’t just annoying; it also is a security and privacy risk, as some threats will try to obtain users’ data. To avoid the annoyance, as well as the cybersecurity risks of grayware, users can prepare their devices with these cautionary steps:
- Be sure to update your device. Grayware looks for vulnerabilities that can be exploited, so be sure to always keep your device’s software up-to-date.
- Beware of rogue apps. As mentioned in the previous section, fake apps are now a part of owning a smartphone. Use the tips in the above section to ensure you keep malicious apps off of your device that may contain grayware.
- Consider a comprehensive mobile security system. By adding an extra level of security, you can help protect your devices from threats, both old and new.