When did you last use a desktop computer that didn’t have protection from malware?
Hopefully, the answer is never. Because everybody knows antivirus and malware protection software is vitally important on desktops.
Yet when was the last time you used a mobile device which had mobile antivirus software to protect its contents (and user) against malware?
In many cases, the answer will also be never. Because for some strange reason, few people actively protect their phone.
On the face of it, that seems illogical. Most of us use our phones throughout each day in various places – often via WiFi connections and hotspots of unknown security.
Many people would regard their phone as their primary internet device, uploading and downloading more files on smartphones than they ever would via a desktop computer.
There’s also a growing trend to share files, content and apps across multiple devices and platforms. A malicious file from an unprotected phone could quickly spread to other devices.
If your malware protection isn’t updating in real time, and if you don’t run regular scans on the device used to access or download this material, that may lead to catastrophic harm.
And worst of all, it appears criminals are writing malware specifically to exploit cloud-based file access.
A worm in the Apple
Most smartphones run either iOS or Android, and there’s a widespread myth that Apple devices can’t be infected with worms, viruses or other malware.
That’s not true.
Of course, there are more malware programs for Android, because Android is at heart open source. Anybody can access its basic code, and design malware accordingly.
Also, Android is the most widely used mobile platform, so it presents a more tempting target.
Apple’s operating system is more closed (and thus harder to crack), but it can still be attacked, so iPhone users must take care to keep their iOS updated.
In August, experts found several websites had been infected with malware that targeted iPhones. Incredibly, these sites had been active for years.
Other incidents have also suggested iOS isn’t as safe as some people would like to think.
Worryingly, many smartphone makers (including Apple) stop supporting or updating smartphone models after a couple of years, hoping consumers will upgrade to newer models.
That potentially leaves these older devices vulnerable once security patching ends.
Mobile antivirus software may become as important for iOS as it is for Android, especially since so many people have iPhones – and are keeping hold of them for longer.
But at the moment, Android users have the most to fear. Malware has been found in multiple Android apps – including some from the official Play store.
While malware for iOS is rare, malware for Android is comparatively common.
How to stay safe
Some people believe avoiding dodgy websites and only downloading apps from official stores is sufficient to protect smartphone users from malware.
But there is growing evidence that’s not sufficient for Android users.
Google Play Protect offers good security, but it won’t be enough if you use mobile content across other platforms, download and share files, or sideload apps from third-party stores.
In that case, you probably need some form of mobile antivirus protection – though check the specifications of existing desktop antivirus packages before you go shopping.
Some security software firms include mobile protection in their standard packages. All you have to do is activate it – typically by sending a link from your admin dashboard.
If you do need to buy mobile antivirus software, stick to well-known names.
Given the permissions antivirus software needs, it’s too dangerous to use a free security app – especially as the chosen package could be malware disguised as legitimate programming.
Most of the top names provide software to protect mobile devices from malware, and some of it is free.
Even so, compare your options before deciding.
Some cheap or free packages may not provide real-time updates. This is unacceptable, as new threats emerge every day.
Confirm a particular platform is easy to use and offers protection against both malware and viruses. Also check the platform has a good rate of malware detection.
You wouldn’t skimp on malware protection for a desktop computer, so why cut corners and potentially give criminals access to a device used for almost everything you do online?