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Fraud Found in Mobile App Marketplaces

As mobile phones and tablets become an increasing part of everyday life, mobile apps have begun to spring up in order to take care of consumers’ needs. Today, consumers can use their mobile devices to do everything from turning off the lights in their home, to changing the channel on their television. As the number of mobile apps and mobile application providers increases, so do the instances of fraud associated with their purchase. Many consumers have become aware of these types of attacks related to PC use, but the realm of mobile app attacks is still widely unknown.

According to Webroot Inc., it’s estimated that the number of mobile-related fraud threats has risen from 7,000 in 2010 to 65,000 in 2012. This includes a 200 percent increase in infected Android devices in the year 2012 alone. Webroot believes that the reason for this increase is caused by the sheer number of mobile apps that is now in circulation, in addition to unmonitored app stores and hackers that have become more clever as time has passed. Many apps also contain malware that can easily infect various mobile devices. Unsuspecting customers are enticed to visit dubious websites that cater to app users. These sites are specifically set up by hackers to provide consumers with pirated apps or apps that contain malware. Hackers can also counterfeit popular mobile apps such as Angry Birds and Skype that lead customers to other websites that are designed to place malware on their mobile devices without their knowledge. This downloaded malware can hijack a smartphone’s text message capabilities, while also retrieving the email addresses and phone numbers saved in the owner’s device. This malware also works on PCs and is used to lead customers to fraudulent sites that trick them into divulging personal bank account information and passwords.

Corporations and government agencies have also begun to feel the effects of mobile app hacking and malware attacks. In these cases, malware is often used in the same way, in order to change phone settings and acquire email addresses and phone numbers. A more malicious use that has been uncovered is the use of malware to spy on workplaces by allowing hackers to use the mobile device’s capabilities to take pictures and listen in on conversations. It was also found that hacked mobile devices can detect keyboard vibrations to detect written messages with an 80% accuracy when set near a computer.

Although it may be difficult to detect whether a mobile device has been infected, some signs may include faster drain of the device’s battery, slower performance, and unexplained increases in data usage. Consumers can help to protect their devices from infection by using antivirus software for their mobile devices to prevent hacking. There are also mobile device and mobile management software that can lock mobile devices, monitor settings, and delete any confidential data on the device if it’s ever lost or stolen. Even though these products can provide some protection to consumers, they cannot detect all malware, nor are they able to stay ahead of the ever-increasing fraudulent apps that are available, so consumers should still remain vigilant when downloading suspicious apps.

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