Security and Risk Online: The rising threat of mobile malware Edit Title

Cath's day was like any other - until she picked up her phone. It was dead except for a spinning penguin on its screen.

Her phone was locked and trapped inside was a year's worth of irreplaceable photos, messages, appointments and contacts.

For Cath this proved devastating: "I thought I had everything saved to the SIM, but that had been completely stripped of all information, photos, contacts, and texts. The photos in particular were the hardest loss to bear."

Sending her phone to her telco proved fruitless - they were unable to fix it. It wasn't a hardware failure. The only option that made any sense was malware, malicious software that is used to disrupt devices.

Mobile malware is becoming more commonplace both in New Zealand and overseas.

Mark Gorrie, Symantec's Australasian manager, said ransomware attacks (which sees PCs smartphones and other devices encrypted and locked until a fee gets paid) has increased by 163 per cent in the last 12 months.

Our part of the world is the third-most targeted region for ransomware attacks.

According to Symantec, cyber-crime is also growing. Identity thefts happen on average every two seconds.

Cybercrime affected 668 million people from 21 countries this year. Phishing attacks and other cyber-fraud cost US$126 billion globally last year.

Phones are increasingly targeted by cyber criminals as more people use them for online shopping.

The trouble is, it can difficult to tell if a website is genuine with a mobile browser and it can be easy to click an innocent-looking link or advert that then installs malware on your phone.

Vodafone offers six tips to avoid malware.

• Only install applications from official app stores: If you own an Android device, you can set it to only allow authorised apps to be download from the Google Play store. Apple devices only allow apps from its store.
• Do not jailbreak/root your device as this exposes it to threats.
• Do not use the same username/passwords across all your apps or sites.
• Ensure your device has a password or PIN enabled. If it has a fingerprint scanner, use it
• Keep the operating system up to date. Doing so ensures your device gets protected against any current vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malware.
• Install mobile a security app (it'll detect and block malware) as well as a cloud-based photo app which will back up photos so they're not lost should your phone be stolen/broken or hacked.

One option as a security app is Symantec's latest version of Norton Mobile Security.

It can protect up to five devices so it should cover an entire household's PCs, smartphones and tablets.

The app offers basic malware protection at no cost but to get more advanced protection if you pay an annual fee of $99.

The free version includes antivirus/malware/spyware detection and removal, anti-theft capabilities, web protection plus call blocking.

The paid version features App Advisor which checks out apps installed on your phone and vets apps before you install them.

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