Mobile Apps: The Next Frontier for Hackers

By the end of 2014, there will be more than two billion smartphones and tablets in use across the world. That’s two billion more opportunities for hackers to get a hold of valuable user data. As mobile devices have progressed, so has cybercrime, especially when it comes to taking advantage of apps that we use and rely on everyday.

A new report recently released from Gartner finds that attacks targeting mobile apps will reach an all-time high by 2017. These new threats will use the latest and greatest app capabilities to their advantage by exploiting system flaws, in addition to developing malicious clones and phony updates.

While there has already been considerable buzz around app breaches and security loopholes, Gartner predicts that roughly 75% of mobile security incidents in 2017 will come from misconfigurations within apps. Popular mobile messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp have already been in the hot seat because of data encryption errors that allowed attackers to intercept user messages and decrypt them.

When the initial risk comes from the app itself, how can consumers avoid them? While the main security responsibility lies with the app creators, users have to maintain constant vigilance when it comes to protecting personal data. As technology advances on both the defensive and offensive sides of the hacking war, those attacks will likely grow in scope, scale and efficiency.

Here are some quick tips to steel your device against potential app security risks:

  • Monitor app permissions frequently. Even good apps can go bad, which is why it’s important to monitor what and how much they have access to. Check app permissions to make sure they can’t get ahold of more information than they need. McAfee® Mobile Security for Android users not only reviews permissions of downloaded apps, but also provides you with an app reputation report, based on a proprietary algorithm that takes into account the app category as well as the developer reputation. If a free mobile game has the ability to send out contacts and is from a questionable source, McAfee Mobile Security will flag that app.
  • Beware of third-party app stores. Unapproved app stores are prime destinations for malicious apps. By not using third-party app stores, you put yourself one step ahead of hackers.
  • Avoid sending or sharing sensitive information via apps. ‘Sharing is caring’ definitely doesn’t apply to mobile apps. Always avoid posting or storing personal information on apps whenever possible. App security is never a guarantee; so think if you would want your message in a stranger’s hands before hitting send.
  • Protect your mobile devices with security software. Your computer has (or should have) anti-virus software on it. Well, your mobile devices should have security on them as well. Fortunately, McAfee has you covered with McAfee Mobile Security for both Android and iOS devices.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfeeConsumer on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.


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