Can my Android smartphone really get a virus from the Internet?
The popularity of smartphones and tablets combined with the high rate of daily usage has made them an obvious target for malware attacks. In general, the Android platform has been and will continue to be the most likely to be exploited for two reasons: the open architecture and its market share (it’s now No. 1).
Most existing malware designed to exploit smartphones has either been “proof of concept” applications developed by security firms or crudely written programs that require the user to download and install an infected app. For the most part, if you are careful about where you get your apps (Apple’s App Store or Google Play) and don’t “jailbreak” or “root” your phone to install apps that have not been approved by the vendor, you can sidestep most of the danger.
Because Android phones can take advantage of “sideloading” apps, which allows the user to install anything they want from any source they want, they can also be exploited in this way.
Lookout Mobile Security recently discovered that the age-old exploit used to infect computers called “drive-by downloads” is now being used to infect Android smartphones. It’s now possible to have an infected program slipped onto your Android smartphone simply by visiting a hacked Web site that has malicious code, and you can count on this being just the beginning of this type of exploit. The good news is that it’s fairly rare and still requires you to approve the installation of the app to complete the infection.
To avoid being a victim of this newest exploit, make sure your Android phone does not install apps from unknown sources (go to Settings/Applications/Unknown Sources and make sure there is not a checkmark).
If you are in the high-risk category (rooted or jailbroken phone and you install apps from outside sources) you might want to consider installing Lookout’s free security app (www.mylookout.com/download), which watches over your phone to alert you when suspicious activity is detected. Lookout might also cause some performance issues as it becomes a constantly running overlord in order to protect you from yourself, so only load it if you think you need the extra protection.
Smartphones are a fast developing arena that will continue to be targeted by the bad guys, so make sure you keep your smartphone updated (regardless of which platform you are on) and avoid installing any apps that you really don’t need.