You’ve heard about antivirus software for your laptop and desktop, but can your smartphone get viruses? It absolutely can. For example, the Hummingbird virus infected more than 10 million Android users in 2016, and Flubot text scammers are targeting marks in countries around the world to this day. But you’re not helpless to protect your phone – and the sensitive information you carry on it.
To some extent, protecting smartphones from viruses and other malware is a matter of being careful what apps you install. In addition to knowing what apps to avoid, you also need to be wary of urgent text messages or emails that contain links or attachments. Here’s what you need to know to protect your smartphone.
Research Apps Before You Install Them
These days, avoiding malicious apps simply isn’t as easy as just sticking to the App Store or Play Store. Malicious apps find their way into the Google Play Store and Apple App Store all the time these days. So, while you should stick to only installing apps from reputable developers, it’s not enough to assume that an app is safe just because it’s in the App Store or Play Store. You have to dig a little deeper and do some research on the app to make sure it’s safe.
One way you can make sure is to take a look at the reviews. Read beyond the first few reviews and be on the lookout for massive amounts of reviews that appear within a small window of time. If an app has 1,000 positive reviews but they were all posted within three days of each other, that’s suspicious. Look up other apps from the same developer and check the reviews on those, as well (if there are no other apps from that developer, that could be a red flag). Search the web with the name of the developer and app and the words “safe” or “scam” to see what comes up. And make sure you view the app permissions – if you see that an app wants permissions that it shouldn’t need, that’s a red flag.
Avoid “Cleaner” Apps
It’s one thing to have a reputable antivirus app to protect your smartphone from viruses, but you should avoid any apps labeled as “cleaner” apps or apps that promise to speed up or “optimize” your smartphone. Many malicious Android apps, like Rocket Cleaner, Speed Clean, and Super Clean, claim to optimize or clean up your phone.
Update Your Operating System As Soon As Updates Become Available
Software updates are pushed out to add new features and functionality, but they’re also designed to provide fixes for known security flaws in the operating system. That’s why you should install your operating system updates as soon as they become available. The sooner you install your updates, the sooner you can eliminate known security flaws that could leave your device vulnerable.
Be Wary Of Urgent Messages
Scammers are increasingly using phishing emails and text messages to install their malicious software on hapless devices. They’ll often try to get you to click on a malicious link or download a malicious attachment by creating a sense of urgency. Bad actors may send email messages, texts, or pop-ups claiming that your phone has been compromised, that it has been infected or hacked, or that it needs an urgent update. Do not be taken in by these messages. Don’t click on any links, download anything, or give away any personal information.
Don’t Download Attachments Or Follow Links Unless You’re Expecting Them
You absolutely need to be careful to avoid downloading any email attachments or following any links sent to you by strangers. Phishing emails attempt to direct you to convincing mirror sites that look just like your bank website or your favorite shopping site, but their sole purpose is to steal your login credentials. Regardless of what the message says, don’t download any attachments or open any links you weren’t expecting. If you’re worried about the status of your account, you should open up a new web browser and type the URL into the address bar, then login from there.
Your smartphone might be more vulnerable to viruses than you realize, but that doesn’t mean infection is unavoidable. You can do plenty to protect your phone from malicious apps and hackers. Be vigilant when it comes to downloading new apps or reacting to urgent messages you might receive via email or text, and use an antivirus app to catch any malware that might slip through anyway.