This summer, the ride-sharing company “Yandex. Taxi” started its activity in Lithuania and immediately caused a stir in the Lithuanian society. The National Cyber Security Center even issued a public recommendation to avoid using this app, as the leaked data of Lithuanian residents might constitute a threat to national security. Other specialists draw attention to the fact that such cyberattacks are increasingly common, and cyber criminals use mobile apps for non-political goals too. Hackers use acquired data to clean electronic banking accounts, to blackmail, or to use the hacked devices as launchpads for future attacks. For these reasons, it is crucial to know how to prevent your phone and your data from falling into hackers’ hands.
Mobile phone
Mobile phone
© Shutterstock

Nikolaj Goranin, a certified informational security specialist working at the Informational Systems Department at Vilnius Gediminas Technological University, informs that cyber criminals only want one thing when offering their mobile apps – to steal personal data. "Having extracted your log-in or other personal information, they can empty your bank account or blackmail you by threatening to release sensitive personal information to the public. Having usurped your phone, cyber criminals can use it to infiltrate into other devices," explains N. Goranin.

A real photo-editing app does not need access to your messages

In most cases, however, users fall victim to false advertising rather than direct hacking. N. Goranin claims that the threat of suffering a cyber-attack is at its highest when downloading apps from ads found on unauthorized websites or e-mails. Such ads and apps often carry computer viruses. "If you are downloading a photo-editing app, it asks to access your photo gallery. That makes sense. However, if the same app asks to access your calendar or contacts, you should be concerned – this information is not necessary for editing photos and you might be giving away your private information on your contacts or meetings," warns N. Goranin.

Phones on standby do not just heat up randomly.

If you wish to open a file or a folder on your phone and it asks you to put in personal information, you should stay alert – there is a strong chance the phone is already controlled by hackers. It is also important to remember that secure apps are not normally be interrupted by unrelated ads and that an instance of your phone heating up while on standby might mean it is being usurped by hackers.

If you notice any of these symptoms at work, your first contact should be the IT specialist. But if you see that your personal data have leaked or that your bank account changed without any reason, you should contact the police. "If you have logged on to an unsecured wi-fi network you should not only log-off instantly but also turn on the airplane mode. Only then do you cut off access to your phone. If hackers do break in to your device, you should never use it to access your personal information – instead, go to settings and restore your 'factory settings.' If none of this helps, you should contact cyber security specialists", advises N. Goranin.

Five tips for staying secure

You don't need to be a victim of an attack to react. Following five essential cyber security tips, you can avoid malware altogether. "First, you should only download apps from official distributors, such as "Google Play" or "App Store." These platforms maintain security standards for apps distributed through them, thus you get a guarantee that they are safe to use. Second, before downloading an app, check to what kinds of data the app requires access. Third, you should always read at least some customer reviews or find more information about the developer. Fourth, regularly updating your operating system and apps is very important – old versions of apps can be hacked more easily and turned into malware. Lastly, avoid unsecured wi-fi – even if it is free, it might ultimately cost you a lot", lists N. Goranin.

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