A new mobile malware called ‘Agent Smith’, which affected 15 million devices in India was recently discovered by security research firm Check Point. While ‘Agent Smith’ in particular is known to show fraudulent ads for financial gains, malware on devices are also known to gain access to a user’s financial details, personal information stored on mobile devices and even listen to conversations by turning on the device’s mic remotely.
In India, most users tend to download malware through third-party app stores, a lot of downloads also happen when people click on spam links received in SMSes. Indianexpress.com spoke to Venugopal N, Director of Security Engineering at CheckPoint India about India trends, tips on how to avoid the download of malicious apps on your device and more.
Excerpts from a conversation:
How does one know if there is a malicious app on their device?
There is no way to find out if you have a malicious app on your device or not unless you have some sort of mobile security protection. More or less everybody has some sort of protection on laptop, but it is important that we put those kinds of security features on our mobile phones as well because clearly the mobile phone does not just have just your personal data but also official data.
What are the different kinds of mobile attacks?
There are different kinds of threat factors in a mobile device. For mobile, having an anti-virus does not help because it is only going to find out known malware but in the mobile world, every attack more or less is an unknown attack.
The second is there are additional vectors, like you could get a phishing link via SMS, which could fool people. But an anti-virus is not going to find that.
Thirdly, we all connect to public free Wi-Fi. Such free WiFis are genuine but then sometimes have someone sitting in the middle and listening to all conversations that are happening over the network. So, I would say that we need to look at a security solution that will be able to cater to all the vectors of a mobile attack and not just malware.
What is the most common type of mobile attack that we see in India?
The most common is the download of malicious applications that we do and that is not directly from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, where apps may have been infected. But people also tend to download apps from third-party app stores and that is where most of the malicious activity happens.
Once you know there is a malicious app on your device, how can you completely block it from accessing your data?
If you know that you have a malicious app on your device, I think the security app that you install should give you the ability to delete that particular app directly, which will block it from accessing personal data on your device.
Any tips to stay safe, especially keeping in mind Indian users?
Make sure you do not connect daily to free, public Wi-Fis. Second is go to the official app stores, whether in Android or iOS worlds and download the right app. Do not go to third-party apps from the Internet and download apps.
People tend to click on malicious links in SMS, what to do then?
We cannot stop users from clicking the link but if you have a security software then that is taken care of. But if you don’t, I would suggest when you click on the link to open the website, carefully look at whether it has been crafted to look in a different way.
Look up the web address of a particular link. for example, the message could say that it is a banking link but it may not sound like a banking link when you look at the URL address. So it is important to note specific details.
Why is Android more vulnerable to malicious attacks than iOS?
When iOS launches their operating system at entry-level, they have more vulnerabilities than Android. But given that Android is taken by additional players who add on top of it, the number of vulnerabilities increases.
It is just that while Android has its own set of vulnerabilities, it is not so big when they actually launch it but the minute the mobile operators act on top of it, it increases substantially. iOS is less vulnerable than Android as it is not given to any other device manufacturer to add something on top of it.