Online security experts this week warned that a growing number of malwares are being disguised as seemingly innocent smartphone apps. The malware can send costly messages on the devices without the owner being aware, warn experts. The scams work away in the back-end of smartphones, sending expensive messages and making calls to premium-rate numbers. No evidence shows in the messages folder or call history, so the user is unable to tell what is going on.
GetSafeOnline.org, an internet security initiative, tells that the messages can be sent as regularly as once a minute, costing as much as £6 each. As the user is unaware of the rogue app, for most victims the first instance they realise what’s been going on is when they receive an astronomical bill. Rik Ferguson, of Trend Micro, warns: ‘The user won’t know this is taking place, even if they happen to be using the device at the same time, as the activity takes place within the device’s “back end” infrastructure. This can often continue for weeks before being noticed.’
So why are people downloading the app? According to Tero Pollanen, an online security expert: “the malware is disguised as something else. Often as an add-on to a popular and legitimate online game, or even as a security tool. Furthermore, once installed, fraudsters have full control of the victims device. This enables them to browse the internet, gain access to personal information, access payment data etc. This information is valuable and can be sold, and also used to commit further fraud”.
How do you avoid smartphone scams? Cybercrime and online security expert Tero Pollanen recommends protecting your phone the same way in which you protect a computer: “Installing anti-virus or anti-malware software is advisable”
“Before downloading an app, check reviews and ratings as well as developer information. Signs that malware is present on your device include a fast draining battery: the malware can use a lot of energy, so any change in battery performance could be a sign. Finally, it is always best practice to check your bills every so often”. If you do find signs of online fraud, report it at http://www.actionfraud.org.uk.