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How to identify dangerous apps

It’s tough to imagine life without our smartphones. How would we instantly check the weather in the morning, read emails on the bus, surf the net at a cafe or even slingshot angry birds at pigs!

These devices have not only conveniently changed the lives of consumers but also dramatically changed the way organisations do business. The connectivity available through Wi-Fi and high speed cellular networks has paved the way for apps to reengineer how we live and do business. Yet, there is always the flip side of the coin. As apps become more advanced and suitable for our daily consumption, malware developers are using this to their advantage and tricking users to download malicious software.

Whenever we see a new smartphone hit the market, it is instantly put under the microscope to give users the pros and cons. One of the overarching issues that always come with a new device is the battery life. As the devices are packed full of features, it is proving hard for vendors to create a device that is a suitable size that also has decent battery life. Majority of devices will need to be charged once a day, sometimes twice depending on usage. This particular vulnerability is the latest target for malware developers.

Symantec’s Intelligence Report for September 2012 found a rather unusual app which claims it can provide the smartphone with everlasting battery life, providing you have access to sunlight.The Android app called Android.Sumzand claims to convert the smartphone’s screen into a solar panel that can then charge the battery. Of course, the ‘app’ does nothing of the sort, instead stealing contact data from the phone.

To think that this app will actually work may seem absurd to majority of us as we are well aware that Android devices do not yet contain solar panels, but not everyone is as technically savvy as you think. This is the specific demographic the malware creators prey on.

Malware applications is a growing trend in today’s digital age, but we are also still seeing more traditional attacks still effecting organisations and employees. The Symantec Intelligence Report recently found malicious websites rose an astonishing 29 percent from August to September, with Symantec blocking 780 infected sites per day.

These infected websites will lure users in and can take the form of a range of sites spanning from pornography, gambling, sports and consumer sites offering free prizes to visitors. The report also found that spam and phishing attacks were also up from the previous month further showing the importance of adequate online security.

So what can be done to combat malicious attacks?

The first step is to be cautious of any links you click or downloads you make. If the link looks unreliable, it probably is, so don’t take the risk of infecting your laptop, desktop, or smartphone.

Moving onto apps for smartphones or tablets, be very aware of what you are downloading. Always read the reviews and rating for apps before installing, if there are negative comments or you see any doubt in the app, it’s best to leave it at that. If you do feel the need to get this particular app, conduct research online to see if the app is safe for download and just received negative reviews or if in fact it is a malicious file that has the intent on stealing personal data.

As more businesses adopt mobility in the workplace to encourage productivity, the growth of these mobile connections becomes a mounting challenge to secure, owing to the increasingly sophisticated and tricky threat landscape.

Caution when downloading on mobile devices is highly recommended and continued education for employees regarding online threats will ensure staff are aware of the dangers that are lurking in malicious emails and websites. Really also makes looking at a solution like Symantec MDM pretty compelling.