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How safe is my Smartphone?

At one time, the biggest worry about cell phones was losing one, or having it stolen. That was back when phones were used only as phones. These days, many people have Smartphones that are used for everything from sending text messages, to getting the weather forecast, to finding a restaurant to eat it. Smartphones are more like mini computers that can be used to call someone.

Smartphone Malware

All of the added features of a Smartphone brings increased risk of a phone being infected by viruses and other types of malware. The popularity and widespread use of smartphones also make them targets for hackers.

Recently Google's Android which powers many different Smartphones has made news from a security vulnerability that allows a hacker to steal authentication tokens that are created when logging into Twitter, Facebook or other accounts. Android phones aren't the only devices at risk though. At the Pwn2Own contest back in April, it took a hacker only 20 seconds to find a vulnerability that allowed him to erase contacts on the device.

The biggest risk to security on a Smartphone comes from all of the apps. There are many apps out there for all of the different Smartphones. In fact there are apps for just about anything you can think of doing with a Smartphone. The problem is knowing what exactly a particular app does and if it is in fact something malicious. Apple's App Store has some form of protection because they have to approve an app before it can be put into the App Store. Android phones on the other hand are open source, and have no restrictions on their apps, although Google does remove apps it finds to be malicious.

There are steps that can be taken to keep your Smartphone a "Safephone". Each mobile platform does have antivirus solutions available. But just like on a regular computer, having an antivirus isn't going to protect against unsafe practices. Here are some tips for a safer Smartphone.

  • Antivirus Software: Any kind of device that is connected to the Internet, whether it's a PC, a Mac or a Smartphone should have some kind of antivirus software.
  • Use Safe Browsing Practices: Just like on a regular PC, be careful with what websites are visited. Going to suspicious websites is definitely not a good idea.
  • Be Careful With Apps: Users shouldn't download every app they see for their phone. If an app has a name that sounds like an adult videoclip, chances are it's bad, as happened with a recent infection through Android Apps.
  • Keep Your Phone Updated: Androids, iPhones and other Smartphone operating systems receive updates for both added features and security updates. Phones should be kept up to date with these updates.
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