Mobile malware, as the name suggests, is malicious software that is specifically created and designed to attack the operating systems on mobile phones. As the sale and use of mobile devices are on the rise, mobile security threats are also increasing at an alarming rate. These kinds of attacks are increasing, not only in numbers but also in sophistication, as individuals and organizations move away from desktop operating systems. Instead, we now mainly use our personal devices to store sensitive personal data, including financial information and even access their company’s networks.
Common types of mobile malware programs
The objective of mobile malware range from aggressive marketing push to outright fraud. For every mobile platform, from Apple iOS to Android, there is a malware program out there created for each specific target. Here are some of the common types of mobile malware:
Once loaded as a program in your device, the spyware monitors your activities, tracks all critical information, and send all these data to someone remotely controlling these malicious programs. In many cases, this system is packaged with other seemingly harmless software and quietly collects data in the background – just like a spy.
Also known as madware, this type of malware collects data from your phone in order to spam you with unwanted advertisements. Unfortunately, many authors of madware have now included an element of spyware to their adware variant. Instead of being nothing more than annoying pop-ups, these programs now collect sensitive information, like passwords and contacts, allowing attackers to get a hold of your personal information. Adware has become much more aggressive in recent years, heavily attacking consumer endpoints across different mobile platforms.
This malware tactic disguises itself as a genuine application that you can download and install on your mobile devices. Once installed, it then looks for a way to gain access to your banking details. This is one of the fastest rising types of malware in recent years, especially that we’ve seen a rise in people conducting their banking business from their mobile phones. In fact, surveys have reported an increase of up to 52% of banking trojan attacks from 2018 to 2019.
Ransomware locks out a user from their devices and holds captive all important documents, photos, and videos by encrypting these pieces of information. They then demand a ransom payment, and only once the victim pays the ransom, usually in Bitcoin, are the phone’s data released. In cases when the ransom is not paid on time, all files are deleted or stay locked up forever.
Malware on Android devices
While many of the malicious programs created to target different mobile platforms, a vast majority of these malware target Android users. According to research recently published in March 2020, more than one billion Android devices are vulnerable to attack by cybercriminals. This is due to a couple of reasons, including Google’s open app development and distribution model, as well as many the fact that a number of Android devices are no longer supported by built-in security updates. If you are an Android user with a system running at version 6.0 or earlier, you will not receive the needed security patches against mobile threats.
Signs that your Android phone is infected
Here are some signs that you should keep an eye out for to know if your Android phone has malware or to know how to check for malware on android:
- The phone is running slow. It takes applications time to load, or they keep crashing.
- The phone is overheating, and the battery drains faster than usual.
- There are unusual applications on the phone that you do not remember downloading.
- There is an unexplained increase in data usage and charges.
- You observe an increase in pop-up advertisements.
How to check and remove malware on your Android phone
You can utilize your phone’s Google Play Protect program. This is a built-in malware protection program designed for Android phones. To run this program, go to the Google Play Store app and click on the three-line icon on the top-left corner. Scroll and find Google Play Protect and tap on it. It will then show the status of your phone and the results of the most recent scan.
This feature scans up to 50 billion applications every day in an attempt to quickly identify and remove any harmful programs. It scans every app that is installed on your Android device, so it is a good idea to make sure this program is enabled. In order to do this, click on the Settings (gear) icon on the top-right corner of the Play Protect screen, and make sure both sliders are green.
Additionally, you can invest in robust and comprehensive security software from trusted providers that can provide a complete system check. You also need to ensure your operating systems and software are kept up to date with the latest versions.
While these security tools and updates are one way to identify and remove malware from your phones, user vigilance is also very important. Equip yourself with the knowledge of the different types of scams and mobile malware. Do not open or click unfamiliar links in emails and even text messages. Utilize your phone’s security features, like the screen lock protection or fingerprint recognition technology. And lastly, only install programs and applications from trusted sources.
Nowadays, mobile malware may not be as rampant as those targeting computer desktops. However, as more sensitive information and activities move to mobile platforms, these threats will also fast become a mounting concern. It is always a good idea not to wait until your device gets compromised. Instead, educate yourself on the various malware threats and make protecting your Android phone a priority.