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Mobile Security Threats

Mobile Security Threats

Category: Mobile Security | Published Date: 25/07/2013 | Author: OCERT | Rating: Mobile Security Threats(35 Votes)


There are many different security threats when it comes to mobile security, but we’ll try to categorize them to make it easier to intercept and detect such threads before anything harmful happens.


Malware

BOTNET

A bot is malicious software that enables intruders to control your mobile devices, these intruders remotely takeover your devices and execute illegal activities. A botnet could:

  • Send out spam emails.
  • Spread viruses.
  • Attack other devices.
  • Distribute malicious software and apps.
  • Commit credential theft and causes fraud.

Countermeasure:

  • Install an Anti-virus and Anti-Spyware
  • Keep your operating system and firmware updated.
  • Don’t open attachments from emails, forums or social media websites from untrusted sources
  • Create strong passwords

 

Madware

Mobile Adware are no longer annoying advertisements, they are moving into more aggressive mode by relying back personal information, contact details, location details from the device owners to unknown marketing companies that will potentially abuse such information.


Symantec Connect site, stated that “madware was up a huge 210% in 2012”!


Countermeasure:

Uninstall the software and apps that shows such ads, however sometimes it’s not easy to pinpoint which app or software that are behind such flood of ads then you might need to download a trusted Ad Detector which can identify such apps and moreover it can identify similar apps which you should stay away from.
 


Hidden Spyware

Nowadays, anyone who has access to your cell phone can easily install a spyware software and monitor your calls, SMS messages, and even your location. Some of these spyware are hidden behind legit app or software but they are actually conducting malicious activities in the background.
 

Countermeasure:


If you suspected that someone is spying on you either by a hunch or you were definitely positive then you should install a trusted Anti-spyware app that can identify what apps that have more permissions then they should and help you uninstall them and free your phone.
 
 

Viruses

Mobile viruses differ from PC viruses since the user needs to proactively install and download a virus infected app. However, once infected by a mobile virus it sends itself through Bluetooth, SMS, emails and any means available to different targets hoping that someone else will again accept and install the infected app and the cycle goes on.



Countermeasure:


It’s advisable to download an antivirus app nonetheless because you wouldn’t know when is the next virus will hit your mobile devices, so defend your device with a reputable Anti-Virus app such as Kaspersky, Avast, Bullguard, Comodo, AVG, F-Secure, Norton, Symantec and Mcafee.



Application Permissions

The biggest yet ignored threat! Actually by knowing every application permission you could avoid most of the above mentioned threats! Why? How?
Malicious apps hide malicious access permissions to certain areas that it shouldn’t have in the first place i.e. PAC MAN game shouldn’t have access to your CONTACTS list nor your SMS list, so why is it asking for such permissions? It’s simple, such apps have a hidden agenda and that is either to spy on your phone or to steal your contact list. Both ways they mean harm to you personally and to your phone in general because such activities will be running as a background service and will definitely drain your device battery or even worse drain your Data Plan which you paid for.
There is a new type of applications known as "The Impersonator" which appears to be a legitimate payment app, but actually it steals personal information like your account numbers and passwords, also creates unwanted transactions involving your bank account.



So what should you do?


Well, it’s easy! All what you should do is read the PERMISSIONS Tab (especially in Google Play Store). Is it that easy when you download tens of apps every day? Probably not! So you need assistance from a reputable app that could handle such task. This feature can be found in most Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware apps and there’s a good number of apps from trusted sources that can do that such as Kaspersky, Avast, Bullguard, Comodo, AVG, F-Secure, Norton, Symantec and Mcafee.


Scan your devices and delete those impersonating apps that are accessing more than what they should

Moreover, this takes us to another important and related subject which is sources! You should download apps from a trusted source like the app store since the apps are regulated and checked, but that doesn’t mean that all app store applications are free of any malware.



Wireless Networks

Network connections must be controlled and should be established only whenever needed and must be closed once done. Most of the viruses were initially transmitted via Bluetooth enabled devices.
Turn off your Bluetooth and deactivate the automatic connection to Wi-Fi, this setting can automatically be connecting to any/every open public network. We keep warning people about joining open Wi-Fi networks and that’s for a reason, open Wi-Fi hotspots could be run by hackers or intruders that awaits for his/her victims to join this free hotspot. What could possibly happen?

This is interesting, although people claim that they don’t have any sensitive information but in fact hackers and intruders will always find a way to utilize the smallest piece of information they could intercept to make a profit out of it. Hackers nowadays are after the profit and simply they could:

  • Sell your contact details to online marketing companies
  • Blackmail you or someone from your contacts list
  • Publish your personal photos online
  • Get access to your email or social media websites and start posting on your behalf
  • Get access to your mobile banking application
  • Identity theft
  • And more...

I believe now you do understand the severe consequences of connecting to any/every open Wi-Fi hotspot. So please connect to your own trusted Wi-Fi hotspots.

The same applies to the Wi-Fi hotspot owners, please protect your network with a complex password and try to control who can access your network with many out of the box features like hiding your SSID, MAC address filtering, Disabling remote administration (for more details visit the articles section at www.cert.gov.om)
 
 

Geo-Location


Who likes to be followed everywhere?! That’s basically what most smart mobile devices do, if not disabled then our devices will keep broadcasting our location to apps that request such information. Why use geo-location in the first place? Such feature or service is used to make more accurate searches about your location like Navigation, searching for local points of interest and apps that utilizes location services like TripAdvisor app.

How can this be a threat, well first of all it’s an invasion to your privacy, it also raises the potential of threats ranging from burglary and theft to stalking and kidnapping by knowing the pattern of your whereabouts.

To avoid such problems, only enable geolocation when you really need it and limit applications access to your location. This feature can be found in most Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware apps and there’s a good number of apps from trusted sources that can do that such as Kaspersky, Avast, Bullguard, Comodo, AVG, F-Secure, Norton, Symantec and Mcafee.
 
 

Jailbreaking and Rooting


Jailbreaking is the process of removing the limitations on some mobile devices to allow the use of unauthorized software and apps but at the same time is opens your device and the data it contains to hackers and malicious apps. Moreover the unauthorized software and apps are mostly cracked which means that they have a big chance of hosting a malicious code that will do some harm and will act as a spyware, botnet or malware in general.

Rooting enables all the user-installed applications to run privileged commands that are typically unavailable to the devices in their stock configuration and allow access to the root folder (system files).

We have already discussed the Application permission Issue, rooting would basically allow more permissions to be given to apps which is not a good idea unless you’re an advanced user doing major development to Android OS, otherwise please avoid it.
 
 

 Privacy


Due to the fact that some mobile devices by default enables most of its features, like photo auto-upload, Geo-locations, auto SYNC and many other features that could invade your privacy before even getting the chance to disable them!

Social networking websites are generally rich with specific information about people like hobbies, skills, place of work, location, address, family members, friends list and many more depending on what people are willing to share.

However, some social networking apps comes preconfigured to allow automatic upload of every photo you take with your camera! Did you know that? Probably not, so please go through your installed social networking apps and disable such feature.

This is basically a knowledge you should know and pass to your friends and family, because no apps will make you aware of this up front. So please whenever you connect your devices to such apps make sure to change the privacy settings to whatever makes you feel comfortable and secured.