Imagine your body being targeted by 100 million viruses. That is exactly what’s happening to your networked digital devices. Laptops, desktops, netbooks, Macs, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids and Symbian mobile phones are all at risk. Research from McAfee Labs reveals a variety of threats:

  • Mobile: Android has become the most popular platform for mobile malware. Hundreds of Android threats soared from the middle of 2011 into thousands of threats in early 2012 into 2013. The bulk of these threats spread through third-party app stores and were financially motivated.
  • Malware: In the first quarter of 2012, PC malware developers delivered their most productive quarter ever, supporting a forecast of 100 million pieces of malware before the end of 2013. Malicious developers are building more rootkits (software designed to evade detection) and password-stealing Trojans (software that collects the information required to break into a device or an account). Like many consumers, they also like the Mac.
  • Spam and phishing: Believe it or not, spam volume has decreased to a mere one trillion messages per month. McAfee Labs has observed major developments in targeted spam, or what’s often called “spear phishing.” By using information they collect about you, spear phishers create more realistic messages that increase the chance you will click. In 2012, nearly all targeted attacks started with a spear phish cast.
  • Botnets: Botnets are groups of infected computers—often consumer PCs—that criminals manipulate to send spam, process fraudulent transactions, or conceal other nefarious activities. In 2012, infected bots reached five million.
  • Bad URLs: McAfee is recording 10,000 new risky or malicious websites each day. Website URLs, domains, subdomains and particular IP addresses can be deemed “bad” because they are used to host malware, phishing websites or potentially unwanted programs.

While these numbers do not yet approach the volumes of incidents occurring on PCs, they make it clear that mobile devices are genuine and increasing targets. For you as a user, forewarned is forearmed.

To avoid becoming a victim:

  1. Keep mobile security software current. The latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  2. Automate software updates. Many software programs can update automatically to defend against known risks. If this is an available option, be sure to turn it on.
  3. Use a private VPN. Hotspot Shield VPN, which is free to download, creates a virtual private network (VPN) between your iPhone, Android or tablet and any internet gateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers, hackers and ISPs from viewing your web browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning AmericaDisclosures.

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