Malicious Applications: How secure is your mobile device?

Smartphones have become an icon in our day-to-day lives by providing a plethora of useful applications that make our lives easier. Whether it be helping you to sleep, eat well, exercise or socialise, there are plenty of advantages. However, with technology advancing so quickly, can you be sure that the applications you download are safe to use?

The applications you download from official marketplaces (e.g. Google Play, Apple App Store) are safer to use due to the review process that takes place behind the scenes. Each application is checked for violations and malware prior to it being published on the store to ensure that it is safe for users.

While the marketplaces can check applications for malicious content, it is also important to make sure that you are comfortable with the permissions each application requires. Certain applications have been known to request your location, despite it not being strictly necessary for its functionality.

So, what happens when you download a malicious application?

Once malware infects a device, it can remain dormant until a specific behaviour is achieved. For example, malware may exist on your device and not perform anything malicious until you access your online banking session. At which point, the malware will attempt to steal any login credentials entered along with the one-time password (OTP). Malware can also be used to passively track activities such as text messaging, e-mails, location and browsing history.

While risks are exposed when downloading and installing applications on your mobile phone, there are ways you can circumvent these threats. To summarise, follow these three steps:

  • Download your applications from a reputable source (i.e. Google Play Store or Apple App Store);
  • Be vigilant of what permissions installed applications require;
  • Install anti-malware software on your mobile phone to mitigate and reduce the likelihood of installing malicious software;

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