Malware and ransomware can inadvertently be downloaded from app stores by unsuspecting local mobile users oblivious to the potential threat posed to data privacy and security.
SA’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) advises mobile users to protect themselves from malware and ransomware in three proven ways: download apps at reputable app stories; install anti-virus and anti-malware protection on mobile devices; and – as a last resort – perform a quarterly factory reset of any mobile device not performing optimally.
According to Tanya Howard-Thelander, a member of WASPA’s Board: “Today’s malicious apps look for every opportunity to steal data and facilitate unauthorized transactions, including purchasing products and services without the mobile users knowledge.” WASPA, along with its members, actively surveys the mobile landscape using test mobile devices to research malware and ransomware in an effort to secure and maintain the integrity of local mobile content and application services.
“Malicious apps attempt to access a range of sensitive information and data after being surreptitiously installed on unprotected devices during the download of apparently legitimate apps,” says Ms. Howard-Thelander.
While most of these malicious apps don’t create any home screen icons that would usually alert mobile users to their presence, they can almost always be found under device Settings. “Once found under App Settings, malicious apps can be deleted or uninstalled with a factory reset of the device,” explained Ms. Howard-Thelander.
Consumers should also analyse the permissions an app requests before downloading an app, in order to understand the user experience and potential activities that can be expected after installing the app. If the requested permissions don’t align with the purpose of the app, err on the side of caution.
WASPA has spent the last 14 years building trust in the local mobile content and applications industry and championing the cause of responsible self-regulation while educating the South African mobile consumer about ways to protect themselves from various online and mobile threats.
“We are ramping up our consumer education and industry engagement mission in an effort to mitigate the potential threat from malicious primarily Android-based apps,” Ms. Howard-Thelander says.
“When discovering a potentially harmful app, users should treat it with extreme caution and immediately delete it,” concludes Ms. Howard-Thelander.
WASPA regularly publishes an ‘application block list’ which helps inform South Africa’s mobile network operators and WASPA members of any domains where mobile content and application fraud is potentially occurring. WASPA members are required to enforce this block list on all services and thereby protect consumers from malicious mobile apps, as best they can.
Mobile users can anonymously report potentially harmful services and applications at: https://portal.waspa.org.za/reportfraud.php