FBI Issues Smartphone Security Advice

Here's a sign of just how important an issue smartphones have become in the security world: the FBI recently issued tips on managing mobile devices through the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Now that smartphones are becoming the 21st century version of the PC—ubiquitous, useful, but occasionally capable of generating huge problems for users—it's time to take heed.

The ICCC's tips are mostly common sense, but they bear repeating:

• Get to know your device, its settings and functions, and how to adjust permissions

• Passcode-protect it and install anti-malware software.

• Beware of applications that use geo-location: if your phone is hacked, it could reveal your physical location to people who you'd rather not know about you.

• Keep applications and firmware up to date, and when it's time to sell it or upgrade, wipe it first.

• And as tempting as it may be, don't "jailbreak" your smartphone. You'll have access to more apps once you remove the restrictions that bar you from downloading unapproved software to your device—but it leaves you much more vulnerable to a full takeover at the hands of a hacker.

In the world of mobile device safety, smartphones running Google's Android operating system can present particular hazards because it's so easy to develop apps for Android. And as we saw with the Windows OS, a commonly used operating system presents a very large target for cybercriminals in search of victims.

Trend Micro detected a nearly six fold increase in Android malware in the third quarter of 2012. What had been around 30,000 malicious and potentially dangerous or high-risk Android apps in June increased to almost 175,000 between July and September.

Additionally, we've also seen a rise in what we call aggressive mobile adware, which tend to gather user data without their explicit consent. Several types of adware that we detected pose serious privacy-related threats. Apps that access your call history without informing you via an end-user license agreement (EULA) or their user interface (UI) constitute malicious behavior from a security perspective.

A recent Trend Micro report on the boom in Android malware includes information on the most common types. Read the full report. >

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