Four Mobile Threats that May Surprise You

October is National Cyber Security Awareness month. Viruses and malware are targeting mobile devices more than ever today. This is part 15 in a series of blog posts we will be publishing on various topics aimed at educating you on how to stay protected on today’s Internet landscape.

Viruses, malware, phishing — by now, these are familiar terms. Many of us think of these and other cyber threats as risks only to desktop and laptop computers, but they are increasingly targeting mobile devices. With more small companies relying on these devices and storing sensitive information on them, a cyber attack can have serious consequences.

A key reason mobile devices are vulnerable is that many users are unaware of the potential hazards. In fact, only 46 percent of the small- and medium-business owners recently surveyed by Symantec believe smartphone and tablet use in their company poses a security risk. Among the smallest businesses, only 29 percent do.

Learning about the potential dangers is the first step to combatting them. Here are four mobile threats that you should be aware of: 

Malicious Apps
Mobile apps infected with malware often resemble legitimate apps such as games, instant messaging and even antivirus software. Once installed on a device, they can reconfigure settings, install mobile ransomware, send emails to your contacts or cause damage in other ways. Malicious apps are generally found in third-party app stores — stores outside of official app marketplaces such as Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Mobile Greyware
Less destructive than mobile malware, but far more common, mobile greyware refers to apps that do not contain recognizable malware but can still be harmful or annoying. These apps might track users’ locations, monitor web browsing habits or raise mobile bills by accessing the Internet without users’ knowledge. A common type of greyware called mobile adware, or “madware,” includes apps that display ads in a phone’s notification bar, replaces the dial tone with voice ads or, worse, expose private data, such as phone numbers or user account information. As many as 55 percent of Android apps contain madware or other greyware, research from Norton has found.


Many of us have learned to spot phishing emails — attempts to elicit financial or other private information through messages purporting to be from legitimate companies. As a result, some fraudsters have turned to SMS phishing, or “smishing,” to target people through text messages. The practice also appeals to fraudsters because it enables geographic targeting - for example, they might pose as a local bank or credit union and send messages to nearby mobile phone users. Smishing poses risks to companies because it can also trick users into downloading infected files, potentially exposing sensitive data.

Fake Networks

Just as it’s a bad idea to hop on an open Wi-Fi network with your laptop, it’s equally risky to do so using a smartphone or tablet. Hackers can exploit these networks to intercept email messages, passwords, login credentials to unsecured sites or other information. Some can even set up fake hotspots to read the wireless traffic flowing over them. These networks often have generic names such as “airport” or “free Wi-Fi.”

How can you protect your business?

Encourage employees to use best practices, such as downloading apps from official app stores and researching them beforehand. Even then, it’s wise to research apps and read reviews beforehand — fake security apps have found their way into official app stores, and nearly one-quarter of apps in the Google Play store contain mobile adware, Symantec research has found. Instruct employees to never give out confidential information over email or text message. If they receive a message purporting to be from a bank or another institution, they should contact the business to verify the message’s authenticity.

Consider developing a mobile device-use policy for your company, if you don’t have one already. A good policy should provide guidelines for downloading apps, connecting to company resources remotely, setting passwords and other aspects of mobile security. Explore security products that include protection for mobile devices, such as Norton Small Business or Norton Mobile Security, which support app scanning to identify apps that include malware and greyware, and blocking for fraudulent websites. These products can help your team work productively while helping to minimize risk.

Norton Small Business, designed for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, provides comprehensive protection and convenient management for mobile devices, PCs, and Macs. Norton Mobile Security offers powerful protection for iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets at larger businesses. Gain peace of mind that your business is protected from the latest threats by getting started today. 

This is part 15 of a series of blogs for National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

For more information on various topics, check out:
Week 1
5 Ways You Didn't Know You Could Get a Virus, Malware, or Your Social Account Hacked
How To Choose a Secure Password
How To Avoid Identity Theft Online
How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams
How To Protect Yourself From Cyberstalkers

Week 2
Mobile Scams: How-to Identify Them and Protect Yourself
Exactly How Free Is That Free App?
BYOD And Protecting Your Mobile Workforce
Cyber Security Concerns and Smartphones

Week 3
Keeping Your Mobile Fitness Data Secure
Security Concerns and the Connected Car
The Connected Home- Just How Safe Is Convenience?

Week 4
Securing Employee Technology, Step by Step
Are Your Vendors Putting Your Company’s Data at Risk?
Theft-Proof Your Mobile Data
Traveling? Don’t Let Your Mobile Data Stray

Week 5
How Do Cybercriminals Get Caught?