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We all love good apps. But they are not always as they seem – and there has been significant growth in the murky mobile malware landscape, warns security guru’s McAfee. Since smartphones and tablets are now eclipsing PC’s, cybercriminals have set their sights on mobiles and maliciously modified apps are becoming popular.

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There are approximately 200 malicious apps versus tens of thousands of good apps, says McAfee Labs experts.

So how does one differenciate the good from the bad?

Reported mobile malware incidents are still relatively low, but there are some common sense ways to protect smartphones and tablets devices:

·    The amount of detected smartphone malware is relatively low but being aware of threats is the first step toward protection

·    Research apps and their publishers thoroughly and check the ratings

·    Purchase from a well-known reputable app store market, such as the Android Market, Apple App Store or BlackBerry App World. One way for Android users to avoid installation of non-market applications is to de-select the “Unknown sources” option in the applications settings menu on their device.  If the option is not listed, it means your mobile service provider has already done this. .

·    When you install an app, you’ll see a list of permissions for services that grant access to the hardware and software of your device. If something in the permissions screen doesn’t look right, don’t install that app! A game or alarm clock app shouldn’t need to access your contacts or have the ability to transmit that data from your device.

·    Install anti-virus software on your phone.  It is a good idea to install an anti-virus program when you get a new mobile device before you add any other apps.

According to Gartner, 17.7 billion mobile apps are estimated to be downloaded in 2011 (a 115 % jump from 2010. By 2012, mobile apps are projected to generate more than US$15 billion in app store revenues from end-users alone.

“As the application market continues to boom, users should be more cautious that they know what they’re installing,” said Lawrence Pingree, Gartner analyst.

“For example, they should only install applications from trusted sources and ensure that permissions match up with the respective application’s core features. Anti-malware protection will also go a long way in helping to ensure the user’s mobile device has the latest protection.”

 

“Maliciously modified apps have started to become more prevalent,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president, McAfee Labs.

“However, with mobile devices becoming a targeted platform for malware, it’s becoming more common for cybercriminals to attempt to corrupt a legitimate app.”

McAfee recently released McAfee App Alert software, secures user’s privacy by providing intelligence about the apps on their Android device. It offers mobile security, combines powerful anti-malware, anti-theft and web safety features for Android, BlackBerry and Symbian smartphones, as well as Android tablets.

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