Cyber criminals are a skilled and wily bunch and even the most astute and aware internet-savvy consumer can fall into their deceptive traps of phishing, malware and other horrible tools.

For anybody that thinks that they will never be “hacked” or fall prey to phishing we urge you to reconsider.

Just last week FNB customers who thought they were safe were unknowing victims in a phishing scam. Add to this the fact that cyber criminals are no longer content with attacking you through a PC and, thanks to the fact most of us now have a smartphone pretty much glued to our hands and you’re in a hot mess of vulnerabilities.

For example, Kaspersky Labs recently discovered Triada, a piece malware that traditionally targets PCs, is just at home targeting Android smartphones. To be clear, Android smartphones running version 4.4.4 or earlier of the operating system are at risk. That can of course change though given Android’s infamy for not updating previous versions of its operating system leaving older tablets and handsets vulnerable to attack.

As Kaspersky describes it, Triada based malware can be ruthless.

“The stealth capabilities of this malware are very advanced. After getting into the user’s device Triada implements in nearly every working process and continues to exist in the short-term memory. This makes it almost impossible to detect and delete using antimalware solutions. Triada operates silently, meaning that all malicious activities are hidden both from the user and from other applications.”

Now before you drop your phone in the drink, and delete every online profile you’ve ever had, there are ways to protect yourself according to David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab in the United Kingdom.

While you should be on your guard, the old adage that prevention is better than cure has never held more sway and today, we want to help you prevent cyber criminals from messing with your life. Here are some tips you can follow:

Get your apps from legitimate sources

We while we understand that the idea of buying an application doesn’t sit well with some people, you should always assume that apps from any source other than an official App Store (such as the Google Play Store) could potentially be loaded with malware.

Having said that, there have been instances of malware, spyware and viruses being found on the Play store as an extra precaution make sure you check the publisher of the app against the official website. This means not downloading WhatsApp from any publisher other than WhatsApp Inc.

Do you trust this network?

“We all want to stay connected in the world today but people should be wary of untrusted networks,” Emm tells us. The reason for this is because on an unencrypted or untrusted network you never know who is watching you.

The danger here is a man-in-the-middle attack where an attacker intercepts what you think may be a secure transmission. For this reason Emm suggests not using untrusted, or public networks for confidential activities such as online banking.

Use a numbered pass code

As is being the FBI’s recent wrangling with vs Apple over a certain smartphone proves, pass codes provide an extra layer of security. While they may do little to prevent an attacker that has already installed malware on your smartphone, pass codes can prevent a malicious person from picking up your lost phone and having a field day with your handset installing all manor of viruses, malware or other malicious software. Of course this also prevents those with wandering fingers from parading as you with the wealth of information you keep on your handset.

Use mobile security apps

We stand by well-made mobile security apps. While they shouldn’t be used as a full service solution they do provide a good line of defence. Often these apps can also check your social profiles and notify you if you are sharing data too freely.

We also advise using a secure cloud back-up service to make sure that all your important documents are secure and cannot be accessed without the correct credentials.

No airtight solutions

So will you be 100% safe if you take all of these precautions? Unfortunately we can’t say.

The truth is that cyber criminals are getting smarter. The emails that once claimed you have a long lost relative who left you a sizeable amount of money have been replaced with software which simply logs keys as you type. Bogus SMS competition claims are now passed by in favour of malicious apps.

Truth be told, the best defense is education. Knowing what cyber criminals are capable of is your best way of knowing what dangers you may encounter along your journeys through the internet.

We also urge you to not be selfish with your newly acquired knowledge; warn mom and dad, ask your IT team about the precautions they have at work and let’s all do our bit to keep everybody else just a bit safer online.

[Source – Kaspersky] [Image – ND BY/2.0 Olli Henze]