Online safety / July 09, 2019

Mobile malware: what you need to know

Nimmi Kanji

Nimmi Kanji

Director - Social Purpose Programs, For Good and TELUS Wise

Man sitting at home using phone

According to the Consumer Technology Association, 86 per cent of Canadian adults surveyed own a smartphone. Whether they’re used for emailing, texting, banking, gaming, taking pictures, scrolling through social media, reading the news or watching your favourite show, for many of us, it’s hard to imagine life today without a smartphone.

Given the smartphone’s popularity and our increased reliance on them, it’s no surprise that cybercriminals are shifting their focus from exploiting the vulnerabilities of desktops to wreaking havoc on the operating systems of mobile device operating systems. And yet, through our work with TELUS Wise, we often find that individuals are surprised to learn that their smartphones are not immune to malware and viruses.

So what exactly is mobile malware and how does it work?

Mobile malware is malicious software that targets mobile devices. It typically spreads when users download bad apps (usually from 3rd party app stores) or when users are tricked into visiting malicious websites via email or text-based scams. These nefarious apps and websites push a script or program onto your device, which gets to work behind the scenes. Once your device is affected, you run the risk of having your personal information stolen (e.g. passwords, contact information, photos) and/or having your activities tracked (e.g. Internet usage and location).

Detecting and removing mobile malware

Reduced device performance is one of the best indicators of mobile malware. This may include a shorter battery life following a charge, a device that gets hot quickly or one that is slow to respond, or apps that crash frequently. You may also see an unexplained increase in data consumption and mystery apps showing up on your device that you didn’t download.

If your device exhibits these symptoms, you should:

  1. Uninstall any apps that you didn’t get from an official app store (i.e Apple’s AppStore, iTunes or Google Play).
  2. If you have an Android, try putting your device into Safe Mode – this stops 3rd party apps from running.
  3. If you have an iPhone, you can try to restore your device from an earlier backup and/or restore it as a new device, allowing you to start fresh.

If you notice that your device issues go away after trying these steps, then it’s likely a 3rd party app may have been to blame.

Most importantly after taking these steps, you should change the passwords for any remaining apps and accounts you use on your smartphone, as it’s possible that this private information has been compromised.

To keep your device protected going forward, here are a few simple tips:

  1. Only download apps from official app stores and read reviews for any new apps you consider installing.
  2. Keep your operating system up to date and promptly accept updates when they become available.
  3. Be careful where you click: if you receive mysterious text messages (or emails that seem suspicious), refrain from clicking on any links and do not reply.

The good news is that app developers and phone manufacturers work tirelessly to keep malware at bay. They regularly make security patches and updates available to us, helping to ensure our apps and smartphones are protected against the latest vulnerabilities and known threats. Keep the above tips in mind to do your part to stay safe as you navigate our digital world from the palm of your hands.

Visit our tips page to learn more about keeping yourself and your family safe online. You can also visit a TELUS Learning Centre to get hands-on support with your device.

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