According to research from the watchdog Which?, over a billion devices running on the old version of the Android operating system are vulnerable to hacking. Using Google data, Which? discovered that 40 percent of Android users globally are no longer receiving necessary security updates from Google, possibly rendering them vulnerable to ransomware attacks, data theft, and other cyber risks.
Due to its open-source nature, many manufacturers have developed their own modified versions of the Android operating system, different from Google’s base version. Therefore, there is a fractured market, with some manufacturers being more diligent about their users’ security and others being less reliable.
Since Android is the most in demand operating system, the users must get sensitized to the most common cyber risks associated with this OS and ways to minimize them.
Cyber Risks Faced by Android Users
1. SMS Phishing (Smishing)
This is a phishing variant that uses texts to trick smartphone owners into visiting malicious links. Due to its popularity and openness, hackers are now being attracted to Android.
A 2017 NBC News report highlighted a smishing scam where victims were lured into activating new credit cards. The messages coerced users to call a number that directed them to enter personal data over the phone. Smishing also comes as messages informing users that their online accounts have a problem and need to call a specific number for assistance. Others promise cash prizes from companies such as Walmart and require you to click on the included link.
2. Android Malware
As of March of this year, the total number of unique Android malware samples came to 482 579 per month, with Trojans being the most common form of malware affecting Android phones. This number is bound to multiply due to Android’s expanding pool of possible victims.
Also, Android’s open-source nature makes it easy for hackers to learn and find vulnerabilities that they can take advantage of.
3. Nosy Apps
Android market apps have seen tremendous growth over the years. The apps help us meet romantic partners and manage diaries and payments among other things; they have basically changed how we relate to the world.
Unfortunately, many of these apps can now access device location and even stored contacts. The question you need to ask yourself is, why do these apps need to know such info, and what are they using it for?
How to Minimize the Risks
All is not lost for Android users; by taking a few precautions outlined below, you can minimize the above risks and keep enjoying all the good things that come with owning a smartphone.
1. Keep Your Software Updated
Everything, including your operating system and mobile apps, is a possible gateway for cybercriminals to compromise your device. By keeping your software up to date, you’ll be ensuring that your device is protected against most cybersecurity threats.
2. Download Apps from Authentic App Stores
Both Apple App and Google Play stores screen their apps before selling, but third-party app stores may not always do that. While buying from popular app stores may not guarantee you never get a substandard app, it can help reduce the risk.
3. Use a VPN
Many smartphone users use free Wi-Fi networks available in hotels and airports, but what you may not be aware of is that public Wi-Fi hosts cybercriminals ready to eavesdrop on your personal data. If you have to use unsecured networks, make sure you do so using a VPN. How VPNs work is they encrypt your information, making it private and unreadable to anyone spying on the network.
Android devices have become a crucial part of our lives, which is why we should ensure they are secured for our own good. But, we also know that the Android Operating System is susceptible to some cyber threats that can cause serious problems for you and your device. To stay safe and avoid being a victim of the above malicious agents, please take note of these tips.
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