What Is Android Malware?
Android is the most-used operating system in the world. While the Apple iPhone is the number one selling smartphone, Android is proliferated on many more mobile platforms. And, it is not just popular in the United States, but also in nearly all other countries around the world. Android is owned by Google and, as such, is in direct competition with Apple devices. As Android is such a popular mobile operating system, it has become a major target for potential malware. Android malware is like the malware you’ll find on computer systems.
Similar to Computer Malware
Malware is installed onto a computer through an internet connection. The vast majority of malware is more of an annoyance than anything else. It may place a cookie on a computer to see what websites you visit, or it’s an advertisement that has remained on your device. Basically, malware accumulates and bogs down your device.
From time to time, though, some malware is dangerous. It may save your keystrokes and send the information back to a third-party computer. This can include your sign-in information for a banking application or your social media account. If you use your phone or other Android device for anything sensitive, like checking your bank account balance or posting to your favorite social media platform, then most of your secure information is saved right there at your fingertips on your mobile device.
Android malware is no different from computer malware. It is installed also via an internet connection and works in the same fashion. As your mobile device does not have as much storage space as a home PC unit, you are less likely to suffer from malware, but this isn’t to say it can’t happen.
With Android being such a popular operating system, it is also a fragmented system in that different devices often run different versions of Android. And that can open it up to problems.
Google and Nexus phones receive the latest OS update, so these are almost always running the latest operating system fixes. However, devices form Samsung, Sony, LG and others may have older operating systems. Even different phones from a single company often run different versions of Android, which means versions may not receive security updates as quickly as newer products.
If your device isn’t staying on top of the latest security updates, then it is definitely susceptible and you need to know how to protect your phone from the threats of Android malware.
Consequences of an Android Malware Infection
In most cases, Android malware will just slow down your phone. The phone will take longer to open applications and it will take longer to send out updates and other information. Sometimes, however, the Android malware will steal your sign-in credentials and other information, sending the insights to a third party, where this information is stored for later use. The problem is, you won’t know if the Android malware is there to just track something or to get the inside track on your financials. That’s why it is best to protect against it in the first place.
If you purchase anything online and type in your full credit card number, that information may be saved, as well as frequent flyer information. All of those frequent flyer miles you’ve saved up over the years can disappear in the blink of an eye if the wrong Android malware notices it. These are just a few of the reasons you need to take Android malware seriously and what you need to remain proactive and do what you can to rid your phone of the destructive files.
How to Avoid It
It is easy to avoid Android malware if you’re just careful with what you are doing. By following these basic steps, you’ll avoid running into Android malware and, even if a file should somehow slip past your defenses, you’ll be able to identify it and remove it before any problem develops.
Only Download Apps from Google Play
Google Play is the default application store and download center on Android. It is not the only available option, of course, as there are third-party “app stores” you can access on your phone. This is especially true if you unlock your phone and disconnect it from Android and the manufacturer.
Be forewarned, however, that these third parties do not go through the same scanning and checks as Google Play, which means there is a great chance of accidently downloading malware to your mobile phone.
If you stick with Google Play only for your apps, then you’ll drastically cut down on the possibility of downloading malware.
Secure Wi-Fi Networks
Mobile data is a problem for many users. You may find you are using close to your maximum amount of data with your mobile device. To avoid going over your limit, you connect to Wi-Fi networks when you can. (Wi-Fi networks circumvent your data limit set by your mobile network plan.)
When you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, however, you are at greater risk of getting Android malware. This is because an open Wi-Fi network makes it simple for anyone who knows what they are doing to access your device and see what you’re doing. They can see what websites you’re visiting and, often, see what you’re doing on these websites.
You need to be careful when accessing a public Wi-Fi. It is best if a password is required, such as at a coffee shop that gives you the password with a purchase and that changes the password at the beginning of each day. Open Wi-Fi networks are dangerous and, while not likely, it is still possible for someone to transfer over malware to your Android phone if you are piggy-backing on an open Wi-Fi network.
One of the biggest culprits responsible for installing malware — whether on an Android or other device — is user error. This happens when you open an email attachment and the malware is attached to that file. By you opening the attachment, it transfers the malware to your device.
This originally worked on computers, but with just as many emails opened over mobile devices as computers these days, malware creators have changed their tactics. Due to this, you need to avoid opening email attachments from people or email addresses you don’t recognize. It’s also a good idea to invest in an application that scans over email attachments before opening. You can download free virus and email attachment scanners through the Google Play store. If you regularly download attachments, then you will want to invest in this kind of application.
Virus Scanning App
As mentioned above, it is important for you to protect yourself from potential email viruses. There are times when malware might sneak its way onto your mobile device even without you knowing about it. These files can sneak their way in through an email or even through an infected Facebook message or IM through another application. A malware file may have even attached itself to your mobile phone while you used the McDonald’s Wi-Fi to search Google Maps while in a foreign country.
The point is, you never know where most malware originates. That’s exactly why you owe it to yourself to have malware scanning software installed onto your mobile device. You can locate excellent and free malware scanners in the Google Play store.
These applications are small and take little space, but they will help keep your Android device secure. You can program the applications to automatically scan your Android device to identify potential problems. You also can manually start the scanning features whenever you like if your device slows down and you suspect you might have contracted malware. With the help of these Android malware scanners, you’ll avoid the kinds of problems malware attacks typically bring.
Android malware is a serious issue. It has the ability to steal just about any kind of personal information from your mobile device, including your credit card information, social media username and password, banking account details and everything else in between. While malware can find its way onto your device, by following the steps we’ve mentioned you can take care of your mobile device.