The past few years have seen a huge increase in the use of mobile phones, with smartphones as a necessity. They connect us to the world and have changed our social, political, economic, and religious lives to a great extent.
The most significant number of smartphone users are on the Android platform. According to research, 85% of mobile phones were on the Android platform by 2015, with the number ever rising. This is because it’s an open-source on which anyone can develop applications. Whereas that seems a great idea, it’s also the perfect place for bad actors to introduce malicious apps.
It’s recorded that every smartphone user has at least 12 applications used for entertainment and easy access to products and services. The global mobile app revenue is expected to hit $938Billion by 2023. And that poses the question, “Is your mobile safe?” We will be discussing this issue, focusing on how vulnerable to attacks you could be due to the apps. We will also suggest some defensive measures you can take to avoid being overwhelmed.
Should You Download Mobile Apps?
The introduction and use of smartphones has fueled most of the technological advancement we see today. These are handheld devices used for multimedia communication, which support different applications necessary for work and entertainment.
The fast-growing functionality of smartphones has led to an increase in their use. Traditional mobile phones are losing their grip. With that comes the need for more applications, which we all know make smartphones tick.
Reports indicate that over 100 billion mobile applications have been created and downloaded on different operating systems. Close to the same number of free applications have also been installed on these devices. The expected growth of smartphones in the coming years will be escalated by the rising need for online business, creating a bigger opportunity for such apps.
Today, most enterprises use the BYOD (bring your own device model) aside from the basic corporate-liable structure. Studies from the International Data Corporation in 2021 revealed a significant use of smartphones, especially at work place. The number has grown even bigger since then. The users of these devices mainly rely on mobile apps more than browsers.
Social media apps like Facebook have taken the lead, attracting millions to the use of popular apps. And then, there is the growing market for e-commerce activities and mobile gaming. They all reveal endless possibilities for app monetization.
All these show that mobile apps are a necessity. They help us to get around our daily activities much faster. However, you must know that safety comes first when downloading these apps.
That is why, for instance, a torrenter will use a tool like GigaRapid Seedbox or VPN to get around the safety and legal concerns in certain apps. It is all about keeping your sensitive information from hackers and prying eyes where mobile app usage is unavoidable.
Is Your Smartphone Vulnerable Due to Apps?
Among smartphones’ distinct features is that users can download and install third-party apps quite easily. Global reports indicate that Android app usage is more expanded than other operating systems like iOS and Windows. The fact that users can freely develop and run their own apps on the platform expands their reach even further.
This opens the Android network to malware writers, giving them simple ways to introduce the malware to your phone. Using these apps, bad actors extract user-sensitive information and use it in harmful ways.
Several factors reveal the vulnerability of smartphones. They include:
Storage of Personal Data
Many users tend to save more of their personal information on their devices. In particular, those who use online banking for a wide range of financial services choose to keep the information on their smartphones. It could be for easy access or so that they don’t forget. Whatever the case, this only makes smartphones remunerative and an easy target for hackers through unsafe apps.
Open-source Kernel Apps
The Android platform has the largest number of smartphones developed. The market encourages open-source development, which opens doors for malware creators. They have a better chance to learn and understand the platform, with the ability to create something that could harm the users. It’s through this Google’s marketing strategy of encouraging third-party app development that hackers have such an opportunity.
Most Users Don’t Know the Vulnerability of their Smartphones
Perhaps the biggest threat is ignorance. Most people don’t know the kind of attacks they face with their handheld computers. They will install just any app on the assumption that they are useful for their devices and nothing bad can happen. Hence, they don’t pay much or any attention to security methods.
Which Malware Behaviors Are You Facing With These Apps?
Mobile malware comes with malicious attacks, remote control, and propagation behaviors. An attack means how the malware will affect the device and extend to other devices used by the victim through other channels. With remote control, the malware uses remote servers to infect the device and further exploit it. Malware transmission methods define the propagation activity.
With malware, bad actors can try to access the data on your device. They can also alter how your device operates and even open remote access to the hacker. We don’t mean to scare you, but you might be facing more threats via malware than you know.
The common issues include:
Malware can lead to several attacks. One of them is mobile application permission leakage attacks. These attacks come from mobile apps as confused deputy attacks, intent spoofing, and permission collision. For instance, collusion attacks use overt and covert means to initiate the permissions from various mobile apps, opening access to personal information.
There are also spyware attacks that conveniently collect data from your device. If you store a lot of information on your smartphone, hackers can use malware to access it. The hacker can access your location and even know all activities that you do use your device. A related attack is phishing, which uses a database of fake URLs that can steal the user’s personal data, like credit information. Hackers prefer phishing attacks because it’s much easier, based on a large number of reports over the years because it’s easier.
You may also face diallerware and worm-based attacks. A diallerware attack is where a hacker may cause financial loss to the smartphone owner by sending premium-rate SMS without your knowledge. SMS services can be created, for instance, to offer value-added services like news and stock quotes on a timely basis. Your phone bill is charged without your knowledge.
Another good example is worm attacks. A worm attack can compromise your device’s security. It can also duplicate itself to another device without the user knowing about it.
Malicious Actions Through Mobile Apps
Your mobile apps may seem harmless, but those that come from untrusted sources are potentially malicious. These apps can introduce malicious activities in different ways.
For instance, notice when an app developer requests permissions that have nothing to do with the app. Allowing such access creates a perfect door for the hacker to introduce malicious activity.
Another way is where the same writer develops two apps. There is a huge chance of collusion attackers. It might not be intentional, but the damage caused, like where the user ID is shared via API calls, can be devastating.
How Can You Defend Yourself?
No one can deny that we need mobile applications. They play a crucial role in our daily interaction with the world. However, as discussed here, we cannot ignore the possibility of malicious attacks. There are a few strategies you can use to ensure this never happens.
You can use proactive detection via safe tools. You can also create honeypots that will help in catching malware writers. Additionally, updating apps within a short period and an everyday system cleanup should also help. Most importantly, only install trusted applications through verified signatures of the apps.
There are about 135 permissions on the Android network, 30 of which are potentially malicious. If you are an application developer, ensure you follow strictly secured protocols by sealing any potential loopholes. As a smartphone user, restrict app installation from untrusted sources. Chinese and Russian developers tend to be the biggest writers of malware. Hence, you should carefully check your developer.
For mobile market administrators, it’s important that you strictly adhere to policies, ensuring the mobile market is secure and trustworthy. Any app suspected of maliciousness should be removed, and the developer punished accordingly.
Can Using VPN Help Avoid Attackers
VPN networks offer the best option for masking your IP address. If you suspect that someone may be spying on your activities, extra security measures using such tools can come in handy. Still, you must ensure the VPN network is secure and trustworthy. Understand that any application can be used to install malicious software on your phone.
Your smartphone can be breached in three most common ways. One is poor security decisions you may make. Smartphones come with great technology that warns users with different alerts, for instance, when connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Ignoring these warnings is dangerous. The second way is through flaws in the operating system where developers may unknowingly allow privileges that may capture personal data. And the third way is through malicious web-based apps mostly downloaded using a link.
This information does not mean your Smartphone is bad. It only aims to help you be more conscious and careful with your environment, especially where mobile applications are concerned.