Phone users’ vulnerability heightened by cybercrime

Mobile device security threats are on the rise with the increased access. Net photo.

Mobile device security threats are on the rise with the increased access to mobile phones across the continent.

A recent report by GSMA projected exponential growth in phone penetration anticipating more than 160 million new unique mobile subscribers will be added across the region by 2025, bringing the total to 623 million, representing around half of the region’s population. 

However, with the phone penetration, users become easy targets owing to unsecured Wi-Fi connections, network spoofing, phishing attacks, ransomware, spyware and improper session handling – mobile device. According to Kaspersky, mobile apps are often the cause of unintentional data leakage.

“Apps pose a real problem for mobile users, who give them sweeping permissions, but don’t always check security,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky in Africa.

“These are typically free apps found in official app stores that perform as advertised, but also send personal - and potentially corporate - data to a remote server, where it is mined by advertisers or even cybercriminals.

Data leakage can also happen through hostile enterprise-signed mobile apps. Here, mobile malware uses distribution code native to popular mobile operating systems like iOS and Android to spread valuable data across corporate networks without raising red flags,” Badenhorst said.

For instance, according to recent reports, 6 Android apps that were downloaded a staggering 90 million times from the Google Play Store were found to have been loaded with the PreAMo malware.

Another recent threat saw 50 malware-filled apps on the Google Play Store infect over 30 million Android devices. Surveillance malware was also loaded onto fake versions of Android apps such as Evernote, Google Play and Skype.

In 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.46 million apps while Apple users have almost 1.96 million app options to select from, and that the average person has could have up to 60apps installed on their phone, using around 30 of them each month.

“In this age where users jump onto a bandwagon because it’s fun or trendy, the Fear of Missing Out can overshadow basic security habits – like being vigilant on granting app permissions,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa.

“In fact, accordingly to a previous Kaspersky, the majority (63 per cent) of consumers do not read license agreements and 43 per cent just tick all privacy permissions when they are installing new apps on their phone. And this is exactly where the danger lies – as there is certainly ‘no harm’ in joining online challenges or installing new apps,” Opil said.

It is dangerous when users just grant these apps limitless permissions into their contacts, photos, private messages, and more.

 “Doing so allows the app makers possible, and even legal, access to what should remain confidential data. When this sensitive data is hacked or misused, a viral app can turn a source into a loophole which hackers can exploit to spread malicious viruses or ransomware,” adds Badenhorst.

As such, online users should always be careful when it comes to the internet and their app habits including through ways such as only downloading apps from trusted sources and reading the reviews and ratings of the apps as well.

Users also ought to select apps they wish to install on your devices wisely and read the license agreement carefully.

Users are also advised to pay attention to the list of permissions your apps are requesting and only give apps permissions they absolutely insist on, and forgo any programme that asks for more than necessary.

“While the app market shows no signs of slowing down, it is changing. Consumers download the apps they love on their devices which in turn gives them access to content that is relevant and useful,”

 “The future of apps will be in real-world attribution, influenced by local content and this type of tailored in-app experience will lead consumers to share their data more willing in a trusted, premium app environment in exchange for more personalized experiences. But until then, proceed with caution,” Opil noted.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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