Smartphone Pitfalls

Just about everyone has a smartphone. The exploding popularity of these devices, along with the constant release of new models and features makes them exciting and useful, both to users…and to the bad guys. Three threats to be aware of:

Malicious Apps

By far the most popular smartphones are either iPhone or Google Android based devices. Both of these vendors offer marketplaces to go download and purchase new apps or programs for the phone. This makes it possible to extend and add new games and functionality to the phone without ever having to touch a PC. However, what many people don't realize is that it is fairly easy for hackers to pose as a software company and make apps available on these marketplaces that look just like the other legitimate apps. Just because it is on the marketplace doesn't mean it is necessarily safe. Take a close look at who is offering it, and beware of "free" versions of apps you normally have to pay for. Malicious apps can take over your phone, steal your data, or send text messages to "premium service" numbers, which automatically adds charges to your monthly bill.

App Permissions

Most smartphones have permission systems that allow you to control what an app can access and do on your phone. Whenever you download a new app, don't just hit "accept" when it is asking for permissions. Have a look at what it is asking for access to. Even legitimate free apps often pay for themselves by pillaging your phone for information they can sell to marketers. Chances are that free poker game isn't asking for access to your GPS location, contact list, and browsing history just to let you play a game of cards.

QR Codes

QR Codes are those little square barcodes you can find just about anywhere from magazines to product packaging to store ads. Many phones allow you to snap a picture of these codes to be taken to a website displaying information about whatever you are looking at. Just remember that while these can save you time and can be handy, it is the equivalent to clicking a link to a website and having no idea where you are going. It could open your browser to information about that new movie, or it could be taking you to a malicious website trying to install malware on your phone. Your best bet is always to just go to the proper website yourself, that way you know for sure what site you will be pulling up.

Hackers want access to your information and your money, so whether it is a desktop, laptop or smartphone, if it can give them what they need, they will be trying to get on it. So when the bad guys want on your smartphone, there is probably an app for that too.