Spy? Where? Mobile Spyware Hiding Right Under Your Nose

Some days it feels like the whole world is going mobile. We tweet, we text, we browse the world from small devices that fit into our hands. People from across the globe can reach out to each other with one message. You can buy a plane ticket while on the bus. There are apps that order ice cream on-demand to be delivered to your home, and others that help you choose where to dine out and then make the reservation for you. There’s almost nothing you can’t do with a mobile phone in your command.

Sadly, the same can be said in the reverse. For those looking to get in—the hackers, snoopers and identity thieves—there’s almost nothing they can’t do with your smartphone and the information it contains, once they get in. The spies are going mobile and it’s your mobile world they’re prying into.

It’s more common than you may think.

As the number of smartphone and tablet owners rise, so does the attention paid toward them. Hackers are turning their attention to the smartphone with more than 1/3 of the top attacks reported recently falling in the category of mobile spyware. The bad guys are simply fishing where the fish are, and the mobile pond has grown into an ocean of users, many of whom have no protection set up on their devices.

With just a single spyware program on your phone, cybercriminals can not only access every bit of information you store on it, from your check-ins to your personal contacts, they can then send that information back to a location where it will be held onto until a more malicious use is found for that information. More often than not, cyber snoops use such stolen information to commit fraud and identity theft.

How much control can a hacker gain over your device?

Hackers will skim and record all of your phone’s records, contacts, photos, passwords and other vital information. But they can also activate the phone’s camera and microphone without your knowledge, monitoring and recording conversations from miles away. Phone spies can even send text messages, make calls and/or retrieve and modify the information stored on your phone, again without you ever knowing they were there.

A recent report, “Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report – June 2013,” addressed growing security concerns surrounding mobile devices. It discussed how any number of spyware on the Internet can be planted into your phone using tactics such as trojans (malicious code hidden inside an innocent app), and phishing (targeted emails with spyware on the other side of a link, usually offering prizes that are too good to be true). Downloading such apps can open the door to malware that will then send or receive premium text messages and could completely take over your device in many of the ways described earlier.

So, how can you help ensure that your mobile data is kept safe while accessing it in this wild frontier swarming with hackers and cyber spies?

Be watchful when downloading apps to your mobile device. Steer clear of those that come from third-party app stores, or any websites with a lot of spelling mistakes. Stick to apps in trusted stores such as those from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Also, be selective of the emails that you click on. You could be installing a slew of malware on your phone with the click of a link.

A few more tips to keep your phone safe from mobile spies:

• Just say no when an app asks for too many permissions. A game app does not need access to your location data. With too much access, some apps might be learning more than they need about you, and sending that information back to less than trusty sources.
Freshen up your passwords regularly. Protect your data by changing passwords frequently. It keeps the cyber snoops guessing.
Use caution when opting out of ads. The simple act of choosing to go ad free on an app could be opening a door to more than you bargained for, as you might actually be downloading malware to your phone.
Wrap your phone in a security blanket. Get complete mobile protection from McAfee® Mobile Security to protect your mobile phone from all types of malware. With enhanced privacy and backup features, this award-winning app guards your device against the latest mobile threats, from risky apps to location tracking, and more. And, if you have multiple devices in your home, consider McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which protects all your devices from your smartphones and tablets, to your PCs and Macs

Don’t let spyware keep you from enjoying the convenience of going mobile. For the latest updates on consumer threats and mobile security, follow us on Twitter at @McAfeeConsumer and on Facebook.

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