How to Protect Your Smartphone From Viruses

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All smartphone owners should be aware of and concerned about viruses that affect smartphones, but most aren't. Only 4 percent of mobile phones use virus protection software, according to Juniper Network Global Threat Center's Malicious Mobile Threats Report 2010/2011. Personal and identity information such as financial passwords and contact lists -- once stored on protected personal computers -- now appear on unprotected smartphones. Phones infected with malware, Trojan horses and other viruses leave your phone unusable, send the virus to your contacts or worse: Perpetrators steal usernames and passwords that can lead to identity theft. Protecting your phone is a twofold process; avoid potential viruses and download legitimate virus protection on your phone.

Things You'll Need

  • Anti-virus mobile software

End-User Tips

  • Open attachments on your phone with the same caution as you do on your computer. This includes attachments in emails and in MMS messages. Don't open attachments from people you don't know. Also, don't open attachments from a contact if the message looks suspicious. Your contact's phone or computer may be infected with a virus that is emailing or messaging itself to everyone on his contact list, including you.

  • Watch for suspicious links sent through email or text messages. Never click on questionable links. Like attachments, these may be sent by people you don't know who are posing as individuals on your contact list. If you are suspicious about a link sent to you by a contact, email or text message the sender to ask if he sent the message. He may not know his phone or computer is infected by a virus that is sending messages to his contacts.

  • Download apps only from legitimate app stores, and read the reviews before buying to make sure there is no buzz about a virus attached with the app. The Malicious Mobile Threats Report finds that as the demand for apps increases, so does the proliferation of viruses, particularly spyware. Viruses can transfer through any type of application, including gaming apps, fake anti-virus apps, fake financial-tracking apps and social networking apps.

  • Practice safe memory card use. Never share your memory card with another cell phone. An infected memory card can spread a virus to each phone it contacts.

  • Set the Bluetooth option on your phone to the undiscoverable setting. Some viruses penetrate phones through a Bluetooth connection. This attack is especially tricky; you need only walk by an infected Bluetooth device while your phone is discoverable, and the virus can transfer to your phone. The first documented Bluetooth virus, the Cabir virus, which arrived in 2004, didn't harm your phone or steal valuable information, but it ran the phone battery down quickly by constantly trying to discover nearby Bluetooth connections through which to spread. Current Bluetooth viruses are more malicious; they steal contact information and disable phones.

Third-Party Apps

  • Protect your iPhone from malware and other virus infections with anti-virus apps. Choose from a handful of well-known and trusted anti-virus software providers, as some viruses present themselves as inexpensive or free virus software from unknown companies. SmrtGuard Solutions' Snap Secure app and the Lookout Mobile Security app from Lookout Inc. both protect your iPhone from viruses while backing up your important data and allowing you to track or wipe your iPhone if it's lost or stolen. McAfee Enterprise Mobility Management from Trust Digital is designed for business environments with multiple mobile devices, including iPhones. Snap Secure, Lookout Mobile Security and EMM are all free downloads at the iPhone App Store. Intego created the Virus Barrier iOS software specifically for the iPhone and iPad to scan for and block any viruses from transferring to your computer when you connect the mobile device to it. Virus Barrier can be downloaded from the App Store for a small fee.

  • If you own an Android-powered phone, download anti-virus from reliable suppliers to protect your personal information. The Kaspersky Mobile Security app offers find-and-wipe services as well as virus and spam protection. In addition to standard virus scans, Norton Mobile Security can lock your phone to protect personal data during a virus attack or if the phone is lost or stolen. The Bullguard Mobile Security app protects against viruses, identity theft and online fraud, and it offers parental controls, a basic backup and SIM card protection. All these apps are available for download from the Android Market.

  • Add anti-virus protection for your BlackBerry with Bullguard Mobile Security, which offers a user-friendly online interface that allows you to manage your virus protection and back up information from your phone or your computer. Also useful is SmrtGuard's Snap Secure app for handy information in addition to virus protection; the app warns how new apps may affect your privacy settings and leave your device vulnerable to virus attack. The app also provides BlackBerry users with Personal Guardian service, with which you create a panic button that sends out a text message or phone call with your location. The NetQin Mobile Security for BlackBerry app provides two levels of protection: one local for your phone and one cloud based. It offers real-time virus scanning and a backup of all your data. Download Snap Secure from the BlackBerry App World. Bullguard Mobile Security and NetQin Mobile Security are available for download at the developers' websites.

  • Even if your Windows computer is protected with anti-virus software, you still need a separate mobile app for your phone. Find Windows Mobile virus protection with the Kaspersky Mobile Security app, which offers a full range of protection not available in its BlackBerry and Android apps. These additional features include data encryption and parental controls. In addition to virus protection, the Bullguard Mobile Security app offers a spam filter and firewall protection with its Windows Mobile apps, which are not offered with its Android and BlackBerry versions. NetQin's NQ Mobile Security for Windows Phone app offers anti-virus scans and data backups as well as private and safe-browsing capabilities. NQ Mobile Security is available from the Windows Phone Marketplace. Kaspersky Mobile Security and Bullguard Mobile Security can be downloaded from the developers' websites.

Tips & Warnings

  • The Juniper Network Global Threat Center's Malicious Mobile Threats Report predicts the market for mobile device virus protection software will grow exponentially over the next few years as "the vulnerability of data-centric mobile devices becomes more widely appreciated both in the business and consumer sectors” said Nitin Bhas, one of the report authors. Awareness of the danger is the first step. The second is to protect your phone and the personal information it contains with smart downloading and anti-virus protection.
  • Choose anti-virus software that offers additional safety features when possible. Many offer the ability to track your phone when it's turned on, and some enable you to wipe the phone's memory remotely. Although these features are particularly helpful when your phone is stolen or lost, a remote wipe protects your personal information if you're away from your phone when you discover your close contacts have infected phones, and you suspect yours may be infected. Some programs, such as Lookout, Bullguard Mobile Security and Snap Secure, also offer online backups to protect your data in case of loss during a virus attack.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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