Home > Identity Theft > 4 Ways to Keep Your Cellphone From Getting Hacked

Comments 0 Comments

By now, most of us know that when surfing the Web we shouldn’t click on ads promising us new ways to lose weight without dieting, read emails about magic pills to boost our “egos” or even click on Twitter links about the “shocking” pictures some friend supposedly found of us online.  That is, we know not to do those things from our computers. And hackers and cybercriminals know we know this, too. That’s why they’re targeting our smartphones.

A study by Trend Micro suggests that there are nearly 750,000 malware apps for Android users alone — and that’s just apps. A security company called Bitdefender documented a nearly 300% rise in Android-focused malware in 2013, though that’s not limited to apps. And a Cisco security study issued last week showed that 99% of all the mobile malware out there targets Android users, noting that the fully 71% of Android users encounter some form of malware, either through apps, email phishing, “smishing” (the use of text messages to distribute malware) or other forms of social engineers.

Why the relentless focus on Android users? Well, for one, Android represents more than 80% of the new cellphones on the market, which makes it a better investment of a hacker’s time.  Next, the Trend Micro study found that the toolkits for creating this malware are readily available on the black market. Finally, several security researchers have identified a specific exploit malware makers can use to get into Android devices, which Google and Samsung identified not as a flaw, but as a “legitimate Android [function used] in an unintended way.”

That keeps me up at night… and I don’t even have a cellphone. (Kidding.)

So what’s the average Android user to do?

1. Treat Your Smartphone Like a Computer

If you wouldn’t click on it, open it, download it or go to great efforts to get it for free (like trying to pirate it) on your super-expensive laptop, don’t do it on your smartphone. That “free” version of a legit app is something you might end up paying for when your phone starts spamming other users with texts you didn’t send, and that “link” to supposed pictures of yourself is more likely a malware downloader than memories of Spring Breaks past. We all know what not to do “on the Internet” but, with a smartphone, you’re always on your computer and on the Internet even when you’re not at your desk.

2. Wait Until Later

Just because it’s delivered to you with the immediacy of a smartphone doesn’t mean you have to open it on the run. If it looks iffy, wait until you get home and use a URL expander to check where shortened links really lead, or call or email the friend who sent something that looks fishy. Nothing is that much of an emergency.

3. Download Apps From Only Verified Providers

Malware developers may simply take apps people want (but maybe don’t want to pay for), update them with malware and upload them to the Google Play store for unsuspecting users to download. If you don’t see a little blue icon next to the company’s name in the Google Play store, they aren’t a verified developer. And if you don’t see a bunch of positive reviews of an app or you’ve scrolled through many pages of potential 99-cent apps to find this “great” free one, you might want to consider what, if anything, you’ll really be saving if you download malware.

4. Keep an Eye on Your Bill

If you do download malware by mistake, even deleting the app might not end the infection. You should be checking your data and text usage to watch for spikes, as most malware is designed to send texts, steal and transmit data, or serve you with extra ads. If you notice usage spikes even if your behavior hasn’t changed, have dropped calls that didn’t used to drop or a battery that runs down faster than normal, these are other signs that you should back up your photos and factory reset (i.e., delete everything on) your phone.

Finally, if you think you may have been victimized by a malware attack on your phone or anywhere else, your personal information could be at risk. Monitor your accounts closely, check your credit reports (you can do that for free once a year), and use free tools like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card to monitor your credit and credit scores every month. If you see something out of the ordinary, jump on it. The hackers are hoping you won’t.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: Spiderstock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team