Smartphone Antivirus Just Got Real

Finding the best antivirus solutions for all your computing devices just got a little more important. Malware developers have finally cracked into the official Google Android Market for smartphones using code disguised as some familiar free downloadable applications.

The DroidDream, as it is now known, is designed to steal user information and 50,000 smartphone headsets were reported affected in this first wave of smartphone malware during March 2011.

Tech journos have been warning us this day would come and here it is. According to a new study out of the UK and Europe, smartphone users are generally lackadaisical about security on their smartphone. Most don’t even register the fact that these smartphones are actually mobile computer networks that happen to make phone calls.

I’m sure about 50,000 users out there are now hyper-aware of the need to protect your smartphone and all the information contained therein. The report of the report by PCMag stated:

“The survey by security company Kaspersky asked 1,600 smartphone owners in the U.K., France, Italy, and Spain found that only 27 percent were “highly concerned” by the risks, with the rest either unconcerned or unaware of any danger.

This was despite the fact that a third store sensitive data such as PIN numbers, passwords and user names on their phones with about the same percentage using it for online bank access. Few users bother to set a password for smartphone access.”

Password Protection
So yeah, the first thing you need to do is password-protect your Android smartphone. On my Samsung Galaxy S, I use the drawer menu to access “Location and security” menu. Here, I have the option of pattern lock, I can set a credential storage password (rarely needed, though) and I can opt to lock my SIM card using a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Setting a PIN for your phone is the strongest level on the frontline, followed by password, then pattern lock. I understand, though, that pattern lock users must vigilantly clean their screens to avoid hackers picking up on a pattern trail and being able to breach that way.

Low Screen Timeout Setting
Another level of protection can also be found by lowering the screen timeout on your phone. Experts seem to agree that one minute or fewer is just about the safest interval to set. This will prevent someone shady being able to pick your phone up and use it as well as initiate the password, PIN and/or pattern protections as soon as you are not actively using the phone.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Guidelines
The next thing to think about is Wi-Fi connectivity and settings. The best protection from being ambushed as you unwittingly pass through the active network of someone looking to steal personal information is to completely disable Wi-Fi capability whenever you leave home.

Turn off Bluetooth capabilities at all times until you need to use it for a planned data transfer. When your smartphone is beaming out a Bluetooth signal in the clear, it becomes vulnerable to attack.

Protect System-level Access
Do not “root” your phone. This is hacker speak for removing manufacturer safety protocols that allow you to more easily and quickly download and install custom apps. However, this also means that program trying to hack your phone also has root access and this is disastrous.

I mean, it’s a tempting level of customization and even earns bragging rights among the nerdistocracy, but if you are serious about protecting the highly personal identifying information on your phone leave the root protections in place.

Smartphone Antivirus Scanner and Android Market Safety
Now that you’re aware of how your smartphone can defend itself through password protection and vigilant wireless connectivity, here are some ways to recognize potentially dangerous situations within the application download market.

Get yourself an antivirus scanner – Lookout is a popular and able free application, but there are several others that will also do the job. You can use something like Lookout to scan potential downloads to ensure you don’t pick up something vile.

So far, the official Google Android Market’s famously open platform had remained secure from destructive and criminal malware. Before DroidDream, the only tip about shopping for apps was, stick with downloads from the official Android Market: problem solved.

But now we know it is vulnerable and need to learn to recognize what a disguised virus might look like. If that fails and you do end up with a virus in the download queue, hopefully your antivirus scanner would catch it at that point and not allow it access.

Permissions are perhaps the most important thing you can look for and understand before downloading an app. This is a screen that most users might quickly click through in anticipation of using the new app, but this is a most revealing moment before download. Study what access the app is requesting to your phone and if it doesn’t make sense to you, don’t initiate download.

In third-party app markets, the dead giveaway that an app contains something unsavory is when it is labeled “repackaged” or the name is slightly different from the official app name. Whenever you see a repackaged app, just move on by. Download only the official version with the correct name of the app you’re seeking. Android Package file (.APK file types) should also be avoided.

Other best practices include performing a spot of research before initiating the download, whether it’s on the official market or no. Get thee hence to the internet and search for app reviews. You can’t always trust the app reviews on the app itself. It won’t take long to determine the veracity of the potential download this way.

All of the above should be taken into consideration in order to safeguard your digital information. Awareness goes a long way into implementing the best antivirus protections.

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