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13 Mobile Security Threats And How To Prevent Them

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Mobile Security Threats

With the advent of smartphones, mobile devices have slowly become an integral part of our lives. Mobile devices have become a crucial part of our day-to-day lives, from emails to studying online or even streaming movies. However, while this increased use is convenient, it also leaves users vulnerable to various mobile security threats.

Statistics reveal an 87% increase in malware threats for mobile devices over the last few years. The threats range from phishing scams designed to steal financial information to ransomware programs that hold mobile devices hostage until users pay a ransom. 

Similarly, incidents like the infamous Pegasus malware are enough to start paying attention to mobile security. However, it is crucial to be aware of these top 13 mobile security threats to protect your device from security invasions.  

Top Mobile Security Threats:

Here are the most important threats to our mobile security.

1- Malicious Apps

Malicious apps are one of the most common mobile security threats. These are seemingly legitimate apps embedded with malware designed to steal sensitive user information such as passwords, credit card numbers, photos, etc. 

There have been several instances of malware-embedded apps working silently in the background to spy on users and steal their information. At times these malware attacks might also completely take over your device and render it useless. Several types of mobile malware commonly occur, such as:

  • Banking malware 
  • SMS Trojans
  • Mobile Adware 
  • Bot

To protect yourself from mobile malware, only download apps from trusted sources such as the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Such certified and reputable apps stores routinely scan their apps for malware and are quick to remove threats. The review section within app stores is crucial and helps identify flaws, vulnerabilities, and threats within apps. Read the reviews before downloading an app and ensure it is from a reputable developer. 

Another crucial method to ensure security from malicious mobile applications is regularly updating your phone’s operating system. The regular patches you receive for your phone’s operating system are there to patch known vulnerabilities. If these vulnerabilities are left unpatched, they lead to hack attacks and malware invasions. 

 2- Ransomware

Ransomware is malware that can hijack your phone to encrypt your personal information and hold it hostage. The idea is only to release the decryption key once you pay the demanded ransom. Ransomware attacks happen through phishing campaigns and are often embedded within apps, email attachments, and clickbait links. This ransomware has various variants such as:

  • Crypto malware
  • Scareware 
  • RaaS
  • Dxoware. 

Mobile ransomware is one of the most prevalent mobile security threats. There have been several incidents of mobile ransomware attacks. In 2021 alone, there were over 4,000 mobile ransomware threat variants discovered. Therefore it is crucial to ensure security from such ransomware attacks. 

Fortunately, there are several ways to protect yourself from ransomware, such as installing a secure anti-malware application in your phone and keeping your phone operating system up to date. It is also crucial to practice good cyber hygiene, which involves remaining vigilant about the apps, documents, or files you download from third-party sources, insecure torrent websites, or email attachments. 

Moreover, since ransomware attacks can also occur through clickbait, never click on links or attachments in emails or text messages from unknown senders.

3- Spyware 

Spyware is malicious tools or software designed to spy on a victim or steal their personal information. Although they have been around for a considerable time, spyware has become increasingly common with the advent of smartphones. Since smartphones have access to banking apps, social media accounts and email accounts, and other sensitive information, they are an ideal host for spyware or stalkerware. Some common types of spyware available such as:

  • Keylogger 
  • Stalkerware
  • Trackers. 

Although spyware might sound generally harmless, they severely threaten security and privacy. Spyware installs itself within devices sneakily in disguise of some legitimate applications. However, some spyware, such as FlexiSpy, also comes pre-installed, and embedded within the device’s operating systems. 

A malicious actor might use spyware for several reasons, such as stealing pictures account credentials and spying on calls and social apps to conduct identity theft. Spyware is also used to steal financial information for fraud. 

While spyware is indeed dangerous, it takes little effort to ensure security. The best way to protect yourself from spyware is to install a quality antivirus and anti-spyware program on your device. Apart from that, be careful that you don’t click on suspicious links or open unsolicited attachments. Moreover, since most spyware apps require physical access, make sure to password protect your device.

4- Mobile Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are another prevalent mobile security threat. The traditional phishing attack features a malicious threat actor sending the victim a seemingly legitimate email or SMS to steal sensitive information or deploy malware. Within mobile devices, phishing attacks also occur in various faces such as:

  •  Banking mobile applications 
  •  Click-fraud advertising embedded within applications
  •  Crypto Mining code in gaming applications
  • Online shopping 

To protect yourself from phishing scams, never share your personal information with anyone who contacts you via email or text message. And always be sure to check the website’s legitimacy before entering any personal information. You can do this by checking the website’s security certificate and looking for the padlock icon in your web browser.

5- SMS Phishing

A type of phishing attack, SMS Phishing uses social engineering tactics to steal the victim’s personal information such as credit card information, social security numbers, bank account credentials, crypto wallet keys, and more. SMS Phishing or smishing uses text messages as the attack medium as its name implies. 

A typical attack involves the victim receiving a text message from a seemingly legitimate company or organization. The text message would be attractive enough to evoke curiosity and entice the victim to click on the link present within the SMS. The fraudulent link most likely leads to a fraudulent web page that directs the victim to reveal personal information. Smishing attacks aim to steal the victim’s finances, social security numbers, and other sensitive information for identity thefts. 

To protect yourself from SMS phishing, never click on links or attachments in text messages that you don’t recognize. And always be sure to check the legitimacy of a text message before clicking on any links or entering any personal information. You can do this by checking the website’s security certificate and looking for the padlock icon in your web browser.

6- Hijacking Devices

Hijacking devices is when a cybercriminal takes control of your phone and uses it to send spam messages to gain access to banking apps social media platforms. Most malicious actors hijack phones to either steal personal information, conduct identity theft or financial fraud.

To conduct the attack, the criminal contacts the victim’s cell phone service provider and requests the transfer of service of an old phone to a new one. These attacks are pre-planned, and the criminals have access to the victim’s social security number and other such personally-identifying information, which leads to a successful change of cell phone service. 

The malicious actor can then use social media platforms to threaten people, commit crimes, or gain access to payment apps to steal money. Once they have access to the victim’s phone, they change passwords. They access mobile banking apps, payment platforms, unique media platforms, and email accounts using the new phone as auto-recovery. 

It is crucial to remain vigilant and look out for the telltale signs of a phone hijacking to protect your device from hijacking. Whenever you get a “no signal” on your phone for a considerable length of time, immediately contact your service provider even after restraining your phone. Also, use multiple authentications for payment apps, cryptocurrency wallets, and banking apps to ensure security. 

7- Unsecured WiFi Networks

Unsecured WiFi networks are often free WiFi found in cafes, airports, and malls. While they allow convenience, they are another primary concern for mobile security. These networks are accessible for cybercriminals to hack into, and they can use them to steal your personal information or install ransomware or spyware on your device.

With unsecured WiFi networks, the most common issue is WiFi sniffing. These unsecure WiFi spots provide an unencrypted connection giving anyone with the right tools a chance to intercept data traveling between the device and WiFi access point. Moreover, it becomes easier for the threat actor to steal your information due to the absence of web page encryption.

Always use a VPN when connecting to a public WiFi network to protect yourself from unsecured WiFi networks. A VPN is a virtual private network that creates a secure connection between your device and the internet. This prevents anyone from being able to see your traffic or steal your personal information. It is also crucial to only use trusted WiFi networks browse websites with HTTPS encryption and never access personal accounts, or banking apps over public unsecured wifis. 

8- Fake Websites And Apps For Kids

Parents are increasingly concerned about the safety of their children when using mobile devices, and for a good reason. Several fake websites and apps aimed at kids can threaten their mobile security. Some of these apps look very similar to the real thing but contain malicious content that can harm your device or steal your personal information.

There have been several malicious apps and games for children that often worked as spyware. Most of these apps quietly work in the background, taking pictures, recording phone calls, and silently transmitting all personal and private information back to hackers. 

Parents must remain vigilant of what their child is doing over their time online to ensure security from such threats. Apart from that, since most apps are malicious, they can also mitigate these risks by installing secure antivirus software within our device.  

9- Man-In-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

Man-In-the-Middle attacks are one of the oldest forms of cyberattacks that occur when a hacker manages to get in between you and the website you’re visiting allowing them to see and modify the traffic between you and the site. These attacks mainly aim to steal personal information for identity theft or for financial gain. 

Threat actors typically conduct these attacks by setting up malicious wifi spots that aren’t password protected. Such malicious wifi spots allow threat actors to gain access to the victim’s personal information once they connect to it. The known methods for conducting a MitM attack are IP spoofing, ARP spoofing, and DNS spoofing. 

To protect yourself from MitM attacks, always use a VPN when connecting to public WiFi networks. Apart from that, be sure to verify the SSL certificate of any sites you visit.

10- Jailbreaking and Rooting

Rooting is the process of gaining root access to your Android device. This allows you to access system files and folders, giving you more control over your device. However, rooting also makes your device vulnerable to malware and other security threats.

Use a reputable mobile security app to scan your device for malware. A reputable mobile security app like Bitdefender can prevent viruses and other threats from infecting your devices.

11- Device and OS exploits

Device and OS exploits are some of the most common mobile security threats. These attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities in the operating system or the devices themselves. Attackers can use these exploits to gain access to your data or control your device.

Keep your device and operating system up-to-date to protect yourself from device and OS exploits. Make sure you install all available updates as soon as they become available. Additionally, use a good security solution to protect your device against exploits.

12- Weak Passwords

A strong password is one of the most crucial elements of ensuring information security. It would be best if you used strong passwords because weak passwords are easy to break. Nowadays, several computer programs called password crackers can search through thousands of words in seconds. Additionally, future hardware advances may increase the speed of guessing so fast that every computer on Earth could decode a six-letter password within an hour. 

It is, therefore, crucial to impose password security on your device. Ensure that your password is a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols making it hard for the theta actor to guess. Apart from that, you can also deploy the use of safe password managers that can generate strong passwords and even remember them for you. 

13- Theft or Lost Phone

When you lose your phone, you have to worry about someone finding it and accessing your personal information, but you also have to worry about the data being leaked. If you have confidential information on your phone, it could be accessed by anyone who finds it.

You can protect yourself from this by encrypting your data and using a strong password. You should also report your lost phone as soon as possible to help prevent any further damage.

Final Words

As you can see, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from mobile security threats. Some of the most important tips include using strong passwords, installing a quality antivirus and anti-spyware program, and keeping your device and operating system up-to-date.

Additionally, be careful when downloading apps and avoid clicking on suspicious links. Following these simple tips can help keep yourself and your family safe online.

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Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-focused articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and a lot more. As seen in: Computer.org, Nordic APIs, Infosecinstitute.com, Tripwire.com, and VentureBeat.

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