Five simple ways to protect your phone from malware, ransomware and viruses

If you think losing your data is a bad feeling, wait till your phone is infected by ransomware or malware

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The WannaCry ransomware has stirred quite the pot globally, affecting as many as 200,000 PCs across 150 countries. While the ransomware couldn’t do much to Windows 10 PCs, it wreaked havoc on PCs running older operating systems like Windows XP and surprisingly, even in developed countries like the UK and Spain, a large number of government agencies were literally caught napping.

While PCs have always been targeted by cyber-attacks, invasive malware and ransomware, our smartphones fare no better on the security front. According to a recent Nokia report, smartphone infection rate grew by 96% in the first half of 2016 and by 83% in the second half of the year. 81% of all affected smartphones were Android ones compared to just 3% iPhones. With infection levels rising at an alarming level, a few precautions can save your device from being infected by malware or APIs which can not only brick your phone but also gain root access and steal your personal data. Here are five ways you can avoid such malware and protect your privacy in the process.

Avoid third party play stores
Apple and Google have always insisted that users download apps only from the respective companies’app stores only. Both Google Play Store and Apple’s Appstore have mechanisms built in to screen new apps before they are allowed inside, minimising the spread of malicious code. Despite this, it is possible that a few apps with ill-intended code slip through. However, third party app stores do not even pretend to be secure from malicious apps. Some third party app repositories happen to be a haven for malicious apps, luring in users with the promise of free apps or enhanced experiences. Aside from acting as a gateway for malware to enter your device, they also feature fake versions of popular paid apps to fleece phone users and extract information like phone numbers, device information, email addresses to information as sensitive as your banking details. As such, be very careful while downloading new apps and make sure that you download your favourite ones only from recognised app stores.

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Avoid installing apps downloaded from third party sources

Visit secure websites
Website security is extremely important since all kinds of devices from PCs to laptops to tablets to smartphones are used to access them. Websites containing the most up-to-date malware defence carry HTTPS security certificates, and the ones carrying only the HTTP certificate or Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA-1) are not as secure anymore. Hence, if you are using Chrome web browser or Microsoft Edge, do check for the HTTPS certificate on the address line of a website before proceeding. If a website contains only HTTP in its URL, then it will be advisable not to visit these websites as they are susceptible to being used ass malware injection platforms. For the same reason, it will be advisable to run default OS browsers rather than third party ones which may not issue security certificates to individual websites.

Use antivirus apps
Modern mobile antivirus apps regularly screen your phone for malware, adware and other harmful additions and quarantine them before they can inflict any damage. The only bit you need to do is to update them on the Play Store or the Apple App Store whenever updates are available. The makers of these apps regularly bring in fixes for the latest malware and vulnerabilities so the more you update these apps and use then to scan your phone, the better protected you will be. Make sure you’re only downloading antivirus apps from the known names in the business.

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One antivirus app on the phone will help keep your phone safer

Avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots
According to Kaspersky Labs, public Wi-fi hotspots require no authentication to establish network connections, enabling hackers to easily access unsecured devices on individual networks. This way, hackers can easily access your information by positioning themselves between your device and a connection point. Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots can also be used by hackers to feed malware to connected smartphones or tablets. If you come across public Wi-Fi hotspots at airports, railway stations, malls or restaurants, it’ll be advisable to resist the temptation and rely on your mobile network’s internet for your online activities.

Use biometric authentication
While passwords have been used in smartphones ever since they were invented, hackers around the globe now possess sophisticated technology which can crack the toughest of them. A lot of users also employ passwords which are easy to guess or crack, thus rendering the entire process ineffective in battling hackers. However, employing biometric authentication can solve the puzzle. You can now protect your smartphone by activating fingerprint sensor or the iris scanner which cannot be cracked and continue to protect your data even if your phone is misplaced or stolen. These biometric details are unique for every user and have proven their effectiveness over the last few years.

If the above five rules are followed by every smartphone user, the malware infection rates will drastically come down in the near future and you will stay content that you haven’t exposed your smartphone to any risks which you could otherwise avoid. Cyber-hygiene is nowadays as important as cyber-security and if people are educated properly on how to avoid non-conforming apps, websites and software, the internet would be more fun than dangerous in the future.