Watch out for the mobile apps that hide malware


IT would be crass to describe smartphones as the new rock and roll – but they do make beautiful music. But like many top, none-too-reliable performers, your mobile can’t handle money, everybody wants a piece of it and it’s incredibly insecure.

Which is dangerous enough in a musician but fatal for a computer that’s more powerful than the original NASA space mission mainframes.

Mobile apps, in this respect, are often like the parasitic hangers on that attach themselves to rock stars. They might seem fun at first, but they’re likely to loot your bank account, infect all your friends and ruin your life. Don’t trust them.

Now that mobile is where I.T.’s at, every metaphorical creep, pervert and criminal is getting in on the act. And quite a few non-metaphorical ones too.

Beware, for instance, the “love app” which infects your smartphone and uploads your International Mobile Subscriber Identity to a website controlled by hackers.

Another version manages to persuade your phone to make premium-rate text-messaging services. There’s another app that sits on your phone and connects it to a remote server, onto which it records all your phone conversations.

Yes, it’s the app that can make you feel as though you’ve been hacked by the News of the World. Except the people doing this don’t just want to steal your privacy, they’ll empty your bank account too.

One of the big trends in education just now is “gamification”, where games are used as lessons. It’s a big trend in crime too. Hackers get access to your mobile by enticing you to download malware, disguised as a game.

Though the smartphone makers now use technology called Sandboxing to keep apps separate from critical processes, the attackers are finding ways around this.

Malvertising copies the way legitimate developers use in-app adverts to trick users into downloading malware from bogus websites imitating the Android Market.

Sometimes the criminal develops a legitimate app and builds up a big user base. When they have enough followers, they update the ‘app’ with software that will either rob you or ruin your life.

You can counter these threats by downloading apps like G Data Mobile Security. I’m pretty sure it’s legit.

Nick Booth edits