Anti-virus for your phone

Do you have an anti-virus program for your phone?

You may not think of it as such, but if you have one of the more modern Smart Phones out there (iPhone, Android) you're carrying around a small computer with more capacity than a desktop or laptop computer with a few years under the belt.

The threat are definitely real. Hacking a phone would make it possible to read your e-mails, use the phone as a listening device and hear your conversations or make it call a high price number in Bahrain. What you see happening to phones on TV and movies are not really so far fetched - although it usually requires more than just being near the phone like the guys in Person of Interest, before it gets hacked.

Part from these basic actions cracked.com lists the following things that can be done with a hacked phone or how a phone can be hacked:

  • The tilt sensor can be used to figure out what you're typing on your keyboard, if the phone is placed on your desktop.
  • Your credit card information can be stolen, if the phone is just near the cards.
  • Your phone can be hacked by free charge stations.

So, what to do?

Install anti-virus software

However, think of the following:

  • Always install the software from a trusted source (I.e. the app-store, or app-market or Google Play). Do not download an anti-virus program from some website!
  • Make sure you get software that does what you want it to do, there are a few variations. Read the specs!
  • If you suspect your phone has been hacked, you may not be safe unless you do a total factory reset of the phone before you install any anti-virus software. Services like Gmail, Google Drive, etc might help you keep your important data even after a reset.

I've been running Avast Anti-Virus, and Avast Anti-Theft. The anti-virus software scans applications I install (which, in a contrary of the popular depiction in TV series, is the most common way of infection). The anti-theft software makes it possible for me to locate or wipe the phone if it gets stolen (I have linked my phone up with Dropbox, so wiping it on theft is probably a smart thing to do).

Of course, part from having a good anti-virus software installed, you also need to follow a few rules:

  • Do not install software from unreliable sources if you can avoid it. Just because you have anti-virus installed you can still get infected simply because your virus definitions may not have been updated. Continue to use caution.
  • Bring your own charger.
  • Do not leave your phone unattended, or at least put in a lock password or lock pattern. Android has both, I am not sure what iPhone has, but it shouldn't be too easy to just pick up your phone and install a Nanny-app just before the big board meeting.
  • In fact, if you have a really important meeting, you might want to turn off the phone, rip out the battery and leave it in the next room - Belorussian (I think it was) rebels used to do that when the government used the mobile network to spy on them.

If you're a fan of the TV series Pretty Little Liars, where a mysterious person, or group of persons, called "A" seems to have a magic ability to know everything about the main characters and what they are doing in exact that moment. You might want to think "hacked phones" and "A" may not seem so mysterious anymore...

One can only hope this only happens in TV, but a few irresponsible app installs later you may be monitored by NSA/China/your jealous ex... Or... well... I think we're monitored by those three entities regardless of a hacked phone, but you get my meaning!