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November 24, 2010

5 ways to protect your smartphone from hackers

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You may have read a couple of weeks ago about a “zombie” virus, which infected over a million mobile phones in China. According to the Shanghai Daily, it sent out spam messages that were costing as much as $300,000 a day!

The virus was able to send infected phone owner’s SIM card information to hackers, who could then remotely control the phone. Once they got their hands on it, they’d send pay-per-click ads in text messages to contacts in the user’s address book. When the new user clicked on the infected link, their device also got the virus, so people infected all their friends just like “real” zombies.

Nasty, hey? And it’s just another example of how hackers are targeting the valuable data on your smartphone. There’s still no easy way to stop these “zombie” viruses, but there are a few things you can do to make it harder for hackers to do their dirty work.

Think twice about the unknown

Think twice before answering calls or text messages from unknown numbers. This is especially the case if you’ve received a call more than once. Often phishing scams are started via mobile phone calls or texts. One way of checking is to do an Internet search of the phone number that’s calling you, and see if anyone has reported it as linked to a scam.

Always log out

Whenever you’ve finished using a web service, make sure you log out. Otherwise you might inadvertently stay logged in indefinitely. On most computers, if you don’t log out of your email or bank, there is often a time out period, but that’s not always the case with mobile access. And if you lose your phone while logged in, you can imagine what might happen.

Be careful with apps

One way hackers exploit smartphones is by creating a good app with some extra code and extra permissions. Ideally, download your apps from reputable places like Ovi Store. But if you have to go elsewhere, beware of apps that ask for too many permissions. It’s not a good sign if a torch app asks for Internet and contacts permissions.

Keep it clean

If you’re not using apps, clean them out. Some apps can monitor and access various types of data on your phone, including your contact list. Plus, if your phone has a SIM card, set a PIN code for the card, so if your mobile phone is ever lost, nobody can use the card.

Be wary of Bluetooth

Be wary of Bluetooth. If you use a hands-free device to make mobile calls, ideally use a wired headset. Bluetooth devices can be compromised and your personal data can be accessed or corrupted. If you do use Bluetooth, protect the connection with a longer, more secure password instead of a short PIN.

These are just some tips to keep your phone from turning into a zombie. If you use any other ways to keep yourself virus free or if you’ve suffered at the hands of hackers, we’d loved to hear about it. After all, forewarned is forearmed.