It’s unfortunate that we have to worry about viruses on phones now, but that’s what happens when you increase the power and capabilities of a mobile phone beyond just text messages and phone calls. As pocket computers become ever more powerful and commonplace it’s natural that hackers and viruses will follow.
Before you panic though, smartphone viruses can be stopped just as easily as they can on a full size computer. It just takes a few software tools and a touch of common sense. Here are some top malware-thwarting tips:
Install an anti-virus app
Google Play now offers a wide variety of malware-destroying software and they’re an essential addition to your smartphone. You might be sceptical about the need for AV on a phone but many of these tools include useful extras which make them a must-have.
Recognisable names such as Norton and AVG have mobile editions, but in our opinion the best option is Avast! Mobile Security.
As well as combating malware it provides an extensive set of extras with outstanding anti-theft protection for remotely locking, tracking or deleting a lost/stolen smartphone. Amazingly it’s completely free, too.
The only caveat is you’ll need a rooted handset to get the most out of it, as this allows for an advanced feature where the anti-theft components cannot be removed if the phone is wiped by a thief.
Take note of permissions
While Google keeps fairly tight control over the app market Android is an open platform which trusts users to make their own decisions about what they want on their devices.
When you install an app it will display the permissions required. All too often we just click through and carry on, but this important step shows exactly what you’re allowing the software to do with your phone.
You have to make sure the permissions make sense. It’s reasonable that a text message app will need to be able to read and send messages, and a web browser will obviously need data access, but the same cannot be said for a wallpaper app.
Keep a close eye on your phone bill
The goal of many Android malware authors is to make some easy money. They’ll infect handsets and have them send premium rate texts – cue the cash register noises.
You should be doing this anyway, but check your phone bill for unusual activity, by which we mean a bunch of expensive text messages or phone calls. That’s a big hint that something is not right with your handset.
If your provider offers up-to-the-minute online billing you might be able to catch this sooner rather than later otherwise you might not notice until the end of the month.
Be careful where you get your apps
Google Play is the main source for Android apps but there’s nothing preventing you from installing apps from other places. If you enable the option to ‘allow installation of non-market apps’ from Android’s security menu then you can copy across APK’s and manually install.
That’s useful for software which has, for whatever reason, been taken off Google Play or never put on there in the first place, but it does increase the risk of catching malware hidden inside the app by sneaky hackers.
This is particularly true of the many alternative Android markets, especially if they’re offering up pirated software. You might not want to pay for something but downloading it off a dodgy market opens up the possibility of an infection.
Matt Powell writes about all things smartphone and tablet related for Broadband Genie. Follow this link for the latest contract tablet deals, including the iPad 3.