The recent explosion in cell phone spyware can be directly linked to the way cell phone use has changed over the past few years. What was once just a way to stay in touch while away from home or out of the office is now an integral part of everyday life. So many people live their lives on their phones, storing their personal information and recording almost everything they do, that cell phones have now become a prime target for spying software.
Spyware is any software program that records information about you or what you do on your phone without your knowledge, whether it be on your home computer, work laptop, tablet or cell phone. Most spyware is installed by either convincing the user to visit a corrupted site and then exploiting the software to install the spyware, or by the user choosing to install a program that contains spyware. There are also dedicated spying apps out there that someone could install on your device if they have access to it for less than a minute.
A lot of spyware falls into the creepy-but-benign category, and can even be put in place by your phone's manufacturer. This software tracks your physical movements and Internet use in order to better target you with advertisements. It's a little scary to think about, but this type of spyware rarely has any direct effect on you or your information.
Other types of cell phone spyware, however, are something to worry about. These programs are designed to gather your information to use in identity theft or corporate espionage, or even to spy on you directly by accessing the camera and microphone in your smartphone. As mobile devices get more and more like computers, and get used in more business settings, expect this kind of spyware to become only more prevalent in the future.
If you want to stay safe from spyware, your first step is to try to avoid it altogether. This isn't always possible, but by following just a few simple rules you will find yourself far less likely to wind up with any malicious programs on your phone.
First, avoid installing any third-party software on your devices. This means that the only apps you should use are the ones available through official channels such as the App Store or Google Play. Even then, and especially if you use an Android device, only install applications released by trusted developers that have a good amount of positive feedback. Third-party apps are rife with malware, and even some applications that make it onto the official stores may have spyware capabilities.
In that vein, always check app permissions when you install the app. A navigation application is obviously going to need access to your phone's GPS, but a note-taking app certainly does not. If an app asks for permissions that seem odd, stop the installation and avoid the app altogether.
Just like on your home computer or work laptop, you always have to be wary of unsolicited attachments, links and public, open Wi-Fi connections. Hackers can use all of these to install spyware on your device, so avoid public connections and never click on a link or open an email attachment if you don't know the source or aren't expecting the link or document.
Finally, all of these rules won't mean a thing if you don't adequately protect your smartphone. If a thief gets their hands on your device, it just takes a few moments to steal your information or install some spyware. To protect against this, always keep a lock screen on your phone so that even if you lose track of it for just a few minutes, a thief won't have time to bypass the lock and get access to your device.
With mobility taking a greater role in both business and pleasure, even the most careful user can't ensure that avoidance alone will fully protect them from cell phone spyware. The next level of protection can only come from the use of a quality mobile security solution.
A mobile security app will scan apps as you download them to ensure they are clean of viruses and spyware, and continue to check your apps as the mobile threats database gets updated with emerging threats. It will also block dangerous websites that could install malware on your cellphone, and can even scan links sent through text messages. In the event that your device gets stolen, you'll even have the option to block access to your information, or wipe the device completely.
There are free mobile security apps out there, although generally these are less robust and updated less frequently than more established apps. Your best option may be a mobile security solution that offers a free trial period, so you can see the app in action before you decide to make a purchase. Some industry leaders also offer combination security packages that can protect your cell phone, tablet and computer all at the same time.
It may seem like there's already a ton of mobile spyware and malware out there, but the problem is not going away. Taking action now to protect your identity, information and finances is a must, and only a combination of smart mobile use and mobile security software will keep you safe.