Smart Families and Smartphones

No doubt about it, mobile phones are keeping families connected!

In an era when kids often have two working parents, many families have two or more smartphones. Divorced or traveling parents feel less separated from their kids when they can call them from anywhere they happen to be. Kids have the safety net of being able to contact their parents whenever they need them.

So, how could owning mobile phones have anything but a positive effect on a family?  Here are a few smartphone snags that have popped up recently.

 Incessant texting

Kids, especially, can spend hours of time texting.  Homework can suffer, family time is lost and kids get obsessed with staying in constant touch with their friends. It’s a great idea to place time limits on your kids’ phone use, and enforce them.  Too much text-time’s not great for the kids, and takes precious time from other, more important family activities.


Mobile malware can disrupt the life of a family in lots of ways.  Newer forms of SMS malware can run your phone bill sky-high.  Viruses and bots can compromise the use of your phones and, unfortunately, your kids can be the worst offenders when it comes to following mobile safety rules.  Teach your kids not to accept uninvited offers and messages, set parental controls, and protect all your family’s phones with strong mobile security.  Reliable mobile protection is the best way to preserve your family’s privacy and safety.

Blending business with home time

Some families suffer when a parent can’t seem to leave the job in the workplace.  Parents spending time on business calls and texting at the expense of family time is a common complaint among mobile families.  It’s a good idea to carve out some family time by turning the phones off for a period each evening. Let the phone serve you, rather than control your time.

Games and app downloads

Kids and apps can be a tricky combination.  Kids love games (as do many of their parents).  Make it a practice to download apps with your kids, rather than giving them free reign to do it themselves.  Teach them to read permissions and terms of use screens, and be sure to purchase your apps from trusted sources.  Make sure your kids know that most free apps are likely to cost money and down-time.

Social Networking

Another activity that probably needs to be practiced in moderation is social networking.  Facebook can be addictive for kids and adults.  Kids, especially, need to understand the mobile safety issues surrounding social networking.  Never accept someone you don’t know as a friend, don’t share private or locational information, and don’t geo-tag photos when the family’s away from home.  Make sure your kids know that every time they agree to an app on Facebook, their private information’s being shared.

Smartphone families are growing in numbers every day.  Take advantage of the benefits of closer communication, and all the fun that mobile devices provide, but remember to practice moderation and good mobile security habits.

Has your family had some unique experiences involving smartphones?  Share your stories with us on our blog, or join the conversation on Facebook.  We’d love to hear from you.

Donate Your Phone to the Troops

Is there a used or obsolete mobile phone sitting around your house?  A  good way to get some extra value out of an old phone is to donate it to our troops serving in the military. There are lots of good causes that raise money through mobile phone donations, but Memorial Day brings to mind all those lonely and homesick folks who are typically far from home and family.

Donating your old phone is a great gesture. Before you donate, however, practice good mobile security.  There may be personal data residing on your phone that you’ve forgotten about. So, read on.

How does donating your used mobile phone affect the military?

Several programs accept cell phones for recycling as a way to help those in the military, and they don’t always involve sending an actual mobile phone to a soldier.

  • The money raised from donated phones is used by some programs to fund thousands of care packages full of useful things for troops who are away from home. Items include food, toiletries and entertainment items.  Profits from recycled phones are used to buy things that might be hard to get in foreign countries.
  •  Recycled phones proceeds are turned into phone minutes, which are donated to the troops so they can talk to their loved ones when they’re far away.  The fee paid for a recycled phone provides about sixty minutes of free international call time for a lonesome or wounded military person.  Another positive result of mobile phone recycling is that our electronic waste is disposed of properly by the recycling programs, rather than thrown in the local landfill.
  •  Some programs refurbish old phones that are in good shape, and either distribute them to troops or sell them for a nominal charge.

How should you prepare a phone for donation?

Mobile security should be the first concern when you decide to donate your old phones.  The most effective way to wipe your old phone clean is to use a reliable mobile protection product that has a powerful loss and theft feature.

  • Make sure your carrier knows you are closing your account.  It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many people forget this little detail.
  • Remove the SIM card from the phone, which resides under the battery, and dispose of it.
  • Try NQ Mobile’s loss and theft feature.  It got the highest marks in an independent study for its ability to totally clean the data from a cell phone.
  • Give the phone a quick polish, and it’s ready to serve someone else.

Do you know someone in the military who’s benefitted from the mobile phone donation programs?  If so, share with us about the person, where he or she is serving.  Maybe you’ve donated your old phone and want to share the info. We’d love to hear your stories either on our blog comments, or on our Facebook page.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

Getting Up to Speed on Mobile Malware

A Quick Malware Update

Are you assuming that last year’s big wave of Android malware threats has slowed down?  If so, it’s probably a good time to catch up with the data. A recent study of monthly figures over the last year is a real wake-up call for anyone concerned about mobile security.

Growth rate of Symbian v. Android

The crooks will always follow the money.  Symbian malware authors have clearly been making a career switch over to Android. Android’s fast-growing market share, combined with its open platform design, is a super-enticing invitation to cyber criminals. From January, 2011 through April of this year, there’s been a fairly stunning overall growth of Android infections, and a real plunge in the number of Symbian infections. Good news for Symbian owners.

Numbers tell the story

In the month of May, 2011, only 728 new Android were found, compared to 1146 new Symbian threats. However, in the single month of April, 2012, 1463 new Android threats were found, while new Symbian threats were down to 431. Even though the total number of malware events on the Symbian platform (17,405) still surpasses Android’s total (14,484), our researchers are forecasting that the opposite will be true by the third quarter of this year.

Symbian and Android mobile platforms have essentially traded places on the charts when it comes to the growth rate of mobile malware. In January of 2011, Symbian malware growth was at an all-time high, with Android instances making barely a blip. But some time around the end of September of this year, the two platforms officially traded places on the malware growth scale.  On the table below, where the “X” seems to form, we can see how Android malware growth easily surpassed the dropping rate of Symbian malware.

 Thinking globally

When NQ Mobile researchers inspected malware numbers by country, some interesting figures came to light. The top five countries when it comes to cases of Android malware infections are:

23.5%                   China

16.4%                   United States

13.2%                   Russia

11.4%                   India

8.6%                     UK

Our research wizards figure out these numbers by doing a calculation:  they divide the total number of malware incidents in each specific country by the global numbers of infections. Incidents could include people who’ve had multiple instances of malware. So, the figures don’t refer to the number of users who’ve experienced malware infections, or the number of devices that have been affected, but simply the number of incidents recorded.

Obviously, it’s not a great honor to be included in this list.  The United States’ ranking of Number 2 in the list underscores the extraordinary explosion of Android sales this past year here, and the predictable response from cyber criminals.

Don’t be a statistic

Wherever you live, protect yourself from malware with strong, reliable mobile protection.  Statistics can be a yawn, so make sure you don’t end up adding to the numbers.  Visit our website today.

Have you been a victim of any kind of malware on your Android smartphone or tablet?  We’d love to hear your story.  Tell us about your malware experiences, and what you’ve done for mobile protection.  Leave us a comment on our blog, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Don’t Let SMS Malware Raise Your Smartphone Bill

Texting is our number one smartphone activity.  Malware authors are well aware that most of us text constantly throughout our day and are coming up with new SMS malware scams designed to take advantage of our passion for texting. Here’s what you need to know about SMS malware and—most importantly—how to fight it.

The SMS (short message service, or “texting”) feature on mobile phones give us a uniquely personal way of staying in instant contact without having to email or speak back and forth. Any time there’s a feature this popular, someone will try to exploit it, and SMS is no different.  NQ Mobile recently announced the discovery of two different malware threats—Updtbot and TigerBot—that use SMS messages as a vehicle for malicious activities.

Why should you care? For starters, if you’re infected, you might be hit with a sky-high smartphone bill if scammers use the malware to make premium calls from your phone. And then there’s the issue of privacy— scammers are also using SMS malware to steal your data. For example, they’ll get hold of your contacts and photos, and then use this data to contact your friends and family members, pretending to be you. The possibilities are endless for malware authors so, if you own a smartphone, take the time to understand the risks and take the necessary steps to protect yourself against them.

UpdtBot Malware Makes Costly Calls

Updtbot poses as a prompt to upgrade your smartphone system. Once clicked, it goes to work in the background, making unauthorized premium calls at your expense.  It rides in on an innocent incoming text message, and proliferates by piggybacking onto one of your outgoing texts.

TigerBot Malware Records Your Every Move

TigerBot, specially designed for Android systems, disguises itself as an innocent system file. Its job is to record your phone’s sounds, capture and upload your photos and GPS settings, and it will generally wreak havoc on your phone. But, maybe the most insidious task is that it intercepts and uses your phone’s SMS system, all through remote control.

What Do Scammers Get Out of SMS Malware?

Malware for SMS is a hit with cybercriminals because it’s profitable. When infected, your smartphone can send hundreds of text messages to premium numbers at your expense, and you may not know it until you see your bill. SMS malware can also:

  • Provide scammers with a gateway to important personal data, as well as a convenient way for malware to enter your smartphone, allowing a remote server to take control of your system.
  • Install uninvited apps on your system, make changes to your settings, steal your contacts and even reboot your phone.

Protect Yourself from SMS Malware

We wouldn’t trade texting for anything—it’s a fast, fun and convenient way to communicate.  And while dancing around sketchy links, suspicious files and shady ads sometimes seems impossible, it’s not. By taking a few steps to prevent malware, you can text all you want and not have to worry about pesky malware on your phone. Here’s what to do:

  • Download a powerful mobile security product (you won’t find anything better than NQ Mobile Security—and it’s free) that will catch and eliminate malware before it reaches  your phone’s system.  This is the strongest, most carefree way to stay malware-free.  If you have good mobile protection, you won’t even need to wonder if that upgrade alert is real, or if a new file is authentic.
  • Buy your apps and make other purchases from legitimate sources only.  Don’t click on an ad, or fall for a “free” product, just because the offer appears on your screen.  Make a habit of ignoring and deleting anything uninvited.

Have you encountered SMS malware?  Tell us about your experience with a comment on our blog or join the conversation on Facebook.

Mobile Malware Targets Human Logic

What does the average con-artist have in common with a cyber-criminal? 

They both use psychology to get the results they want – namely, to steal your identity, your money, or other valuable information.  Mobile malware often finds its way into a smartphone by simply outsmarting us! Sometimes referred to as “social engineering,” a skilled malware author usually knows a bit about human psychology and what pushes our buttons.

Fraud takes different forms.

How is the idea of social engineering used in mobile malware?  Maybe you’ve heard of elder-fraud, where con-men gain the trust of a senior citizen and trick her into giving up her money. A fraudster knows that he first needs to pose as someone else – someone legitimate. He needs to appear innocent and not arouse any suspicion. He knocks on the door politely, and might even manage to get an invitation to come in, since he seems trustworthy and kind. He may even offer his victim something guaranteed to keep her safe from folks like him.

A lot of mobile malware behaves in the same way.  You may notice an innocent looking ad while using a perfectly safe app. The ad’s image may be very small and unassuming.  Or, you might feel alarmed by a message offering you protection from some looming form of mobile malware you’ve contracted. Logic might lead you to click on anything that offers some form of mobile security, whether it’s related to fending off a virus or improving your battery’s performance.

We can’t always recognize bad ads.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where social engineering scams are plentiful. Although mobile security’s on the minds of most smartphone owners, particularly Android users, the truth is it doesn’t necessarily take a weak moment or carelessness to open the door to mobile malware. Malware is always well-disguised as something else, and we’re all vulnerable, simply because we’re human.  Therefore, it’s  important to follow the golden rules of mobile security, and the good news is, there are some things you can trust.

  • Download a powerful mobile security product that will catch and eliminate malware before it gets to your phone’s system.  It’s the strongest and most effective step you can take toward mobile protection.
  • Buy your apps from legitimate sources.  If you’re interested in a product, search for a legitimate website where you can look into it, rather than clicking on a random ad.
  • Don’t believe random alerts that pretend to protect you from malware.  They’re a product of social engineering, plain and simple.

Have you seen social engineering scams?

Have you ever noticed examples of “social engineering” on your mobile devices?  What kinds of trickery have you seen?  We’d love to hear your comments about this kind of mobile malware here on our blog, or on our Facebook page.

Malware Authors Seek “Superuser” Status

What do smartphone owners and cybercriminals have in common? Both are on the hunt for “root exploits,” which bypass your mobile device’s built-in security system and give you greater control over your phone. Here’s what you need to know about root exploits.

Rooting Android smartphones has never been easier. For about $20, users can buy apps that allow them to use root exploits to gain “Superuser” control of their phones, meaning they remove carrier-added software that they don’t want, bypass carrier restrictions on Wi-Fi and GPS usage, and install apps that their carriers don’t approve of.

The bad news is that consumers aren’t the only ones who’ve figured out that a root exploit is a fast, easy and cheap way to get complete control over a mobile device. Cybercriminals are increasingly exploiting vulnerabilities in Android and other systems to get the root access they need to control mobile devices from remote locations.

Once the bad guys root your phone, it’s a cinch to steal your data and commit fraud. They can silently download malicious software on your phone, send premium (and very expensive) SMS messages from your phone, and commit other types of fraud, which you can read about in our 2011 Mobile Security Report .


Malware that contains root exploits are one the most serious threats to mobile users because they give scammers complete control over your device. To prevent this type of malware from infecting your smartphone, follow a few common-sense guidelines for mobile security:

  • Don’t root your phone. When you consider that the majority of malware comes from alternative app stores (which are often used by people who rooted their phones) and that rooted phones are at greater risk for mobile threats of all kinds, it’s clear that the cons outweigh the pros.
  • Look out for unusual behaviors on your phone. Signs of an infected device include odd charges to your phone bill, unexpected SMS or network activity, or the appearance of apps you haven’t downloaded.
  • Download a strong mobile security  product to stop root exploit activity before it has a chance to begin.
  • Download apps only from reputable app stores that you trust, and always check reviews and ratings before you download anything.

Thoughts on Rooting?

Have you or someone you know rooted a smartphone? How did you do it? Did your phone behave differently? Tell us what happened by commenting on our blog, or join the conversation on Facebook.