Spyware has a way of coasting in under the radar and screwing people over when they least expect it. The threat is real for Android users, especially, but there are a few ways to avoid the problem.
Sometimes called “stalkerware,” spyware has seen an uptick in circulation and threat levels recently. Spyware that targets mobile devices is especially concerning. After all, smartphones often hold personal and valuable data.
People use their phones for almost anything these days — from online banking to sending confidential files to a coworker. If someone steals that data, then it puts everyone at risk.
Despite the prevalent danger, there are many things Android users can do to keep spyware off their phones.
How Does Spyware Work?
Spyware is a form of malware. It’s a piece of software one can unknowingly download onto a device. It steals information or spies on its owner.
The software can make its way onto smartphones in various ways, including file attachments and downloads. Then there are also drive-by downloads from shady websites. And you can always download malicious apps that are spyware in disguise. The latter has been an enormous problem for Android users recently.
Spyware can also come from more “official” sources like phone manufacturers or app developers. These companies often track people’s movements and internet usage to make money through ads.
Meanwhile, more malicious entities gather information for identity theft. They can also use the camera and microphone of the device to spy on their victim. Even Mark Zuckerburg puts a piece of tape over his laptop camera because of this threat.
4 Steps to Keeping the Android Spyware Threat at Bay:
Follow these 4 steps to prevent spyware in the Android device.
1. Install Security Software:
Most people tend to associate the term “security software” with antivirus programs. But really, there are many things that you can classify as security essentials. For instance, password managers, encryption software, and app locks fall under that umbrella too. While avoidance is vital, it’s still good to be prepared in case any lurkers try their luck.
Encryption software has jumped to the forefront of cutting-edge cybersecurity. Nowadays, you can use encrypted email clients, encrypt your smartphone and SD card, take advantage of private messaging, and connect to virtual private networks (VPNs).
Most of these types of encryption are self-explanatory, and as for VPNs, they encrypt the connections to the internet.
2. Only Download Apps From Official Sources:
Third-party marketplaces can be hotbeds for fake apps and malicious software. Relevant authorities don’t regulate the requirements for the apps and often don’t check for malware either.
In fact, it’s common for scammers and hackers to upload fake versions of popular apps on third-party stores. Moreover, Android phones have to be rooted to download some apps from third-party stores, which adds a whole bunch of other security risks too.
The only official store for Android devices is the Google Play Store. While the store has had its share of security issues, it’s still safer to stick with it. Google vets the apps that make it onto its store and deals with malware issues when they arise.
3. Review Apps Before Downloading:
Take a good look at the details on the download page before clicking “Download.” Even if it’s on a reputable store like Google Play, there’s no guarantee that it’s legit.
First up, make sure the developer is reputable and check out the number of downloads. Take a look through reviews as well, but keep in mind that some developers pay for fake reviews. If the reviews are a string of 5-star praises with not a single defect mentioned, then it might be more worrisome than reassuring.
Also, check out the app permissions before downloading. For instance, it makes sense that a GPS app makes use of the phone’s location services. But does it need access to your contacts to function? Most likely not. If the permissions seem strange, then it’s better not to download the app.
4. Keep Software Updated:
The final step is the most obvious one but still has to be said. Software updates contain critical security patches as well. They protect against known vulnerabilities. If you update the device and apps, then it makes things that much harder for hackers who want to exploit them.
Spyware has become a massive issue in cyberspace, and it’s easy to get caught unawares. There are various types of spyware, and different ways to become infected. However, it is possible to stay safe by taking some precautions and using security tools to help curb the threat.