In the previous posts, we have spoken of how you can increase your cell phone’s productivity through applications, social networking and various downloads. As you learn new ways of utilising the best of your phone, it is also important to learn how to keep your phone protected from viruses.
As we open our cell phones to the internet, we need to remember that we are also opening them to the same viral threats that plague our computers. And just like we download Spy-wares to protect our computers from online threats, we also need to take steps to protect out mobile phones from mobile viruses. Awareness on this subject is highly limited. Here are some of the most crucial questions answered:
What is a mobile phone virus?
A mobile phone virus is the same as a PC virus except that it is adapted or created for the cellular environment. The first known cell phone virus appeared in 2004, named Cabir. It was simply produced to prove that viruses could be created to infect cell phones. The virus was harmless but its purpose was to get people aware and to help develop anti-spywares for a problem which was surely on the horizon.
So anti-virus researchers got down to business and thanks to them, we have some idea of the kind of viruses that affect mobile phones and what can be done to prevent them.
At present, the problem is on the threshold but it only promises to get worse. And as the say, forewarned is forearmed.
How does a mobile phone virus spread?
This, of course, is the most viable question. How can the virus enter your mobile phone in the first place?
Every time you go online through your cell phone, you need to be alert for viruses. Cell phone viruses mostly spread only through a direct download. In other words, your phone will catch the virus only if you run the infected file on the phone. this is why mobile phone viruses are typically disguised as games, security patches or other desirable applications.
There are three main ways in which mobile phone viruses spread:
- Internet downloads: This is the same way by which your PC gets infected and is the most common type of cell phone infection. Certain online files are loaded with viruses which get injected into your phone’s software when you download the file. These may include application downloads, downloads of ringtones, games etc or file-sharing.
- Wireless Connections: Bluetooth is a major cause of viruses spreading in mobile networks. The virus spreads between phones when their Bluetooth is on. If you keep your Bluetooth on and discoverable/visible to all, it is easy for the cell phone to catch a virus through other mobile phones in the vicinity. The virus spreads like an airborne illness.
- MMS: MMS messages can come with viruses in the form of attachments. The user must choose to open the attachment and then install it in order for the virus to infect the phone. Typically, a virus that spreads via MMS gets into the phone's contact list and sends itself to every phone number stored there.
What harm can they do?
Viruses, worms and trojans, under whatever category they’re classified, can cause anywhere from minor irritation to total system failure. It may give access to information on your phone including calendar, contact list, text and even photos and videos, in some cases. It might send an infected MMS to everyone in your list. It might even delete information from your phone. And if you then attach the phone to a computer, the virus can spread on to your PC as well.
Now for the good news.
How can you protect your mobile?
· While using Bluetooth: Set your phone to "hidden" so that other phones can't detect it and send it a virus. Go to the Bluetooth options to change your phone’s visibility. Always go for device pairing only when in a secure area and choose a strong PIN.
· Do not open unknown files: It’s the same rule that applies on your PC. If you don’t know what a file is or if you are not sure of it, leave it alone.
· Avoid illegal downloads: Peer-to-peer sharing websites and applications often disguise viruses as credible programs. So beware.
· Install an anti-virus: The software may simply detect and then remove the virus once it's received and installed, or it may protect your phone from getting certain viruses in the first place. There are many discussions regarding the usefulness of spyware in mobile phones. However, if you often use Bluetooth or go for Internet downloads, a good anti-virus software may be important. These can be downloaded for free or purchased.
· Keep your computer virus-free: Many applications, ringtones, music etc are added to the phone by connecting to a computer. If the computer is infected, your phone will catch the virus too. So keep you computer free of viruses and never connect your phone to a public computer.The threat of viruses on mobile phones is looming large on the horizon. Ultimately, more connectivity means more exposure to viruses and faster spreading of infection. As our phones get smarter, the variety of viruses trying to attack them will also increase. It’s an imminent threat which is why it’s important for all cell phone users to become aware of the problem and take preventive measures. If we inculcate these habits now, it will go a long in keeping our mobile phones virus-free, in the future.