Smartphone Viruses?!? There’s an App for That!

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I have to admit, I loved my old cell phone. It was simple to use, it was bright red and I was proud of how I personally bedazzled it. However, work requires that I be “connected”, and for some strange reason my kids were embarrassed to be seen with me and my phone, so I finally traded in my old phone for a new Smartphone. It took me a bit to learn all the fun things I could do with it, but now I am sold! I love having constant access to my email and Facebook. I have cool applications to find the best shopping deals, the cheapest gas prices in town, and I can manage and share my family calendar.

I had a moment of panic today, when my husband read the headlines, “New Smartphone Viruses could be Costly!” Is it really possible to get a cell phone virus?! I wondered…would I have to throw away my Smartphone after I worked so hard to bedazzle it? Let NERDS help take the mystery out of Smartphone viruses with simple fixes…

Is it possible to get a cell phone virus? Yes, the first Android Virus was discovered in 2010. Android phones officially outsold iPhones last year, and for the first time last year, more Smartphones were sold than computers, so it’s a huge, relatively untapped and unprotected target for virus writers to attack. With millions of iPhones in use worldwide, it’s only a matter of time until they are affected as well.

What do the infections do? Just like computer viruses, those that infect Smartphones are often looking to harvest data like usernames, email addresses of your contacts, account and financial data, etc… Some can access your GPS, camera and data stored on your phone. This information can then be used to send spam marketing emails to your friends, posing as you, or worse compromise your bank or credit card accounts. Some send texts from your phone to pay-per-text services that run up a big charge on your bill. They are also likely to use your phone to attempt to infect other phones, sending out messages that encourage others to “Click this link

How easy is it to get a virus? It’s just a matter of downloading the wrong app. An estimated 11 billion apps were downloaded last year, and there is no way to properly monitor or vet each one. Google recently found and removed 50 infected apps from the Android Marketplace, so even reputable sources are susceptible. Most apps are written by novice software developers, who often leave vulnerabilities that are easy for virus writers to find and exploit; and many apps are rushed to market, without taking the time to test their security.

How do I stay protected? Don’t download anything you don’t need, and when you do, download only from trusted sources like your cell provider, or your phone’s app store. Before installing an app, check out the reviews posted by other users to see that it’s been widely downloaded, it isn’t brand new, and it works well. When installing the app, pay attention to the permissions it asks for. Your Soduku app doesn’t need to access your GPS! Install an antivirus program. Yes, they exist! Norton, AVG and others have mobile apps. Don’t download something claiming to be an antivirus from a maker you haven’t heard of before. For the best mobile security app we’ve found so far, check out Lookout Mobile Security www.callnerds.com or call 1-800-919-NERD.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.
About Nerds On Call: Established in a spare room in Redding, Calif., in March 2004, Nerds On Call offers on-site computer and laptop repair services to consumers and businesses. Nerds On Call provides trouble-shooting for PCs and Macs, home and office networks, printers, iPods® and MP3 players, handheld devices and cell phones, home theaters and game systems, and virtually every other form of digital entertainment. In 2009, 2010, & 2011 the company was named to Inc. magazine’s list of 5000 fastest growing private companies. With 7 locations across California and Oregon, Nerds On Call serves more than 40,000 satisfied customers per year. For more information, visit callnerds.com or call 1-800-919-NERD.