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BLOG: Don't fall prey to the mobile malware hysteria

Brian Katz | April 16, 2013
Malware is an inconsequential risk in iOS, and Android can be fairly safe if users stick to Google Play for apps

Android, on the other hand, gives users the ability to "sideload" apps by simply unchecking a settings option -- no jailbreaking ("rooting," in Android parlance) required. Users have good reason to "sideload" apps this way: The app store, for example, requires this setting to be unchecked to deliver Amazon's Kindle-oriented apps to an Android device. When it comes to Android, there are hundreds of app stores, any of which could have malware.

This is why the areas with the highest prevalence of malware are in Asia and Eastern Europe, where there are high proportions of Android users and many third-party app stores that either have some malware or are really malware honeypots. A recent example involved a group of Tibetanactivists hit with Android malware sent through a phishing email that contained an app allowing the activists to send free messages over the Internet. Once the activists installed the app, their devices were compromised.

The secret to avoiding malware is simple: Instruct your users to download apps only from known sources. Discourage them from jailbreaking or rooting their device, and perhaps use MDM tools that detect such jailbreaking or rooting and block their access to your network. Warn them about the perils of sideloading apps from outside the Apple App Store or Google Play.

In short, educate your users. Explain to them what they risk if they don't use their common sense to protect themselves. Tell them, "Yes, those really could be naked pictures of Anna Kournikova that your mom or your boss sent you, but most likely it's a piece of malware you shouldn't click."

Yes, malware writers will get more sophisticated and find new ways to infect your devices, but for now a little common sense and reason will go a long way to minimize the risk.


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