PC Doctor October 3, 2014
Have your computer questions answered here! Search the PC Doctor archive or submit a question of your own at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear PC Doc:
I use my smart phone (I have an android) to access the internet all the time! Sometimes on my home wifi, sometimes on public wifi like at the library, and sometimes through the 3G network from my carrier. (I use Virgin.) I use my email, read and post things to Facebook and then there's my latest obsession Instagram! I check the weather, use the browser and sometimes download documents for use when there's no internet access. I realized recently that I'm using my phone more and more for things I had previously done on my laptop. Here's my question... is my phone susceptible to the same malware and viruses as my home computer? If so - what can I do to protect myself?
Great question! Our phones are so important! Smartphones can be infected with malware. So, what’s malware? Malware is “malicious software.” It’s designed to secretly control a device, steal your private information or money. Malware has been used to steal passwords and account numbers from mobile phones, put false charges on user accounts, send you ads you don’t want to see, and even track your location.
Computer viruses can do a wide variety of damaging things: corrupt your data, erase your hard drive, sometimes they reproduce themselves and use up all your memory or use your e-mail program to spread to other computers. There’s some talk about whether smartphones can get viruses; the manufacturers of the virus protection software imply they can; the phone manufacturers imply they cannot. What to do with that confusing information?
If you download apps, sometimes it can be tricky to tell if one is legitimate. There have been reports of spyware and malicious apps masquerading as media players and more. The very best thing you can do is to use the same safety smarts with your phone that you do when using your computer: Don’t open e-mails and texts from people you don’t know; don’t click on links from within an e-mail or text; read reviews about apps before you buy them; if everyone else has to pay for an app and you’ve managed to find a site where you can get it for free, be suspicious; don’t download an app if you’re not sure where it originates; if an app asks for permissions or access to something you don’t feel good about, don’t allow it.
There are a number of security apps for android. Some protect against viruses and malware, some prevent other users from accessing your data. They are made by a variety of companies (Avast, AVG, Lookout, Norton, and more). Some are free, some you buy, and some are subscription services. Before you commit to one, read reviews, look at what the app actually claims to do, and install it from a reputable website that is known to you. Google Play has reviews. So do ComputerWorld and Cnet.
Until next time … Happy Computing!