Risk of Smartphone Hacking Increases as More Apps go Rogue

by Dale Wright

Do you own a smartphone? IT experts are warning smartphone owners to beware of fake apps and online app stores as the number of unsafe mobile apps rapidly increases.

There are now eight times more rogue apps available to UK smartphone users than there were in August this year.

Security experts from Trend Micro have even done live demonstrations of hijacking a smartphone using malicious software (malware) to show just how easy it is. Their spokesman Rik Ferguson claims that many people are not being careful enough with their smartphone. The data they enter into apps from unknown sources can potentially expose their address, credit card details or bank details.

Some malware apps on smartphones closely imitate legitimate apps, therefore fooling the user into entering their personal information. Other apps take the form of Trojans which are designed purely to generate revenue for the hacker by sending premium rate SMS messages. Such apps can send as many as 60 premium rate texts per hour at a cost of up to £6 per message.

Many users will not be aware of the malicious texts until their itemised bill arrives, although some may notice that their battery is running out more quickly due to the app running constantly in the background.

Users of Android phones are particularly at risk. Security experts at Symantec warn that there are at least six different ways of hacking an Android smartphone, and with 17% of us now managing our bank accounts on our smartphones, the market for hackers could be very lucrative. Many smartphone users are new to the technology and are not yet aware of the potential pitfalls of downloading apps.

The mobile industry have reacted to the increased threat from malware by joining forces with the government and the police to form an awareness campaign, Get Safe Online. They hope that smartphone users will become aware of anti-virus and anti-malware apps and ensure they are installed before any other software is downloaded.

Has your smartphone ever been hacked?