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Mobile Antivirus Software Protection for your smartphone

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Viruses and malware attacks on mobile phones aren't as commonplace as PC ones yet, but they do exist. So if you use your mobile to shop, bank or pay bills, read your emails or access social networking sites, your phone's security should be a big priority.

This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please feedback on how you find the info and if anything needs improving.

Take steps to protect your phone now, in case the threat of mobile malware rises.

Top 10 smartphone security fail-safes

  • Always change your passwordChange default PINs and passwords. Set a PIN and password for your voicemail, keypad and web-based apps as soon as possible. Don't choose obvious PINs like 1234 or your date of birth, and don't store passwords (or other details, like credit card numbers) on your phone. No matter how hidden you think they are, someone will work out your code.

    Ensure you use a proper, hard-to-crack password on your mobile phone, and that the device is wiped if it falls into the wrong hands.

  • Download the best appsDownload security apps. There are loads of free apps you can download that will protect against viruses and malware, as well as other security threats like spam texts, offering additional protection.

    See below for dedicated security apps for iPhones and mobiles that support Android. Worried about security apps? There shouldn't be any dangers with running mobile security apps, provided they are from legitimate vendors.

  • Do your research!Read around before you download. When it comes to downloading apps, avoid ones that you've never heard of, and make sure you do your research first. There are plenty of app reviews online, check out the publisher's details online and also search to see if anyone is reporting the app as malware before you hit "download".

    "Regardless of the current small level of malware threat, all mobile users would be sensible to exercise caution about what apps they install on their phones, which websites they visit, which wi-fi networks they connect to, and what data they share," says Graham Cluley of Sophos.

  • Wipe your data if your phone is stolenWipe personal data if your phone is stolen. Experts advise downloading an app that will help remotely "lock and wipe" your phone if it is ever lost or stolen.

    These kinds of apps will help you retrieve or securely remove your data, to stop it getting into the wrong hands. You should always ensure you back-up the data on your smartphone too, from contacts to photos and music, just like you would on your computer.

  • Scan your files as often as possibleRoutinely scan for malware. If you've an Android mobile phone, download the free Lookout Mobile Security app to scan for malware on software that you've previously installed. Here's a guide on how to use the app from PC Advisor.

    Carrie-Ann Skinner, news editor at the computer magazine, says: "If you exercise caution, such as with normal web browsing, you should be fine. If you're concerned about malware at all, it's worth getting your phone scanned by a free app, and then deleting it."

  • Unsecured wifi is dangerousBeware of using unsecured wi-fi. Be vigilant when connecting to unsecure public wi-fi networks. Avoid using these, eg, in coffee shops or train stations, unless you really have to. If you do, NEVER enter personal details, banking logins or passwords when using public wi-fi.

  • Watch out for links in spam textsNever click links in spam texts. Spam texts are a nuisance at the best of times, but they can be an even bigger problem if they bring with them malware/spyware or a virus. Be sure not to click any links that are included in a spam text, and DO NOT reply, even to tell the company to "stop" texting you.

    Software is available that can filter out spam texts, though sometimes these don't work or can be over-zealous. "I once installed an anti-spam app and it claimed that my weekly text from Egg with the balance of my credit card was spam. So they don't always get it right," says Carrie-Ann. See the Stop Spam Texts guide for more info on how to rid yourself of them.

  • Note down your handset's IMEI numberNote down your phone's security number. Make a note of your phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, as you'll need this if it ever gets stolen.

    The IMEI identifies your phone to the network and is usually located on the back of your phone underneath the battery, as well as on the box the phone came in.

  • Note down your handset's IMEI number Only scan codes you know are legit. Smartphones have the ability to scan QR codes, which give you access to product information or online promotions.

    QR codes are normally pretty safe to use, but if you scan a corrupt or fake one then you could leave your phone open to security attacks. Make sure you only scan codes that are provided by brands you recognise and trust.

  • Erase everything before recyclingErase EVERYTHING before selling or recycling your mobile. A study by insurance provider CPP earlier this year found that over half of second-hand mobile phones sold on eBay and in used electronics shops contained extensive personal data, putting their previous owners at risk of identity theft and fraud.

    If you're going to sell your old phone, trade it on or recycle it, you should restore the factory settings. Make sure you log out of websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, delete all text and email messages and clear the cookies and cache of your phone's browser.

Antivirus and security apps

If you decide to get a security app for your mobile, here are some of the best free ones for phones that support the Android operating system, and some paid-for apps for iPhones. If you have any security app recommendations, please list them in the forum discussion.

Always be careful to check any software you put on your mobile is suitable and compatible with your existing set-up. No liability can be accepted for any individual problems caused by acting upon the information given.

Mobile security apps for Androids

AVG Mobilation

AVG MobilationInternet security stalwart AVG has a free version of its antivirus software for Android phones, to combat bugs and malware. AVG Mobilation also provides loss and theft protection as it has the ability to track and control your smartphone remotely if you should ever lose it.

Available from the Android Market, it works on all versions of Android OS, v1.6 onwards.

Norton Mobile Security Lite

Norton Mobile SecurityNorton's put its security expertise into a new Android app called Mobile Security Lite, which protects your mobile from loss, theft and malware. Its automatic antivirus scans any apps you've downloaded as well as any app updates, and removes any security threats.

You can also remotely place a security lock on your phone with a simple text message so thieves can't access your info or run up your bill if your phone gets lost or stolen. Call blocking and text blocking features help you avoid spam too. It works on all versions of Android OS, v2.0 onwards.

Mobile security apps for iPhones

Apple's iOS is pretty safe and secure, and there's no known malware that'll cause detrimental affect to your phone, though there's been minor malware attacks in the past.

Graham Cluley of Sophos explains: "We have seen some iPhone malware - but it's all been for jailbroken devices. Examples include the iKee worm, which changed your wallpaper to an image of Rick Astley, and the Duh worm which stole banking information." But because of the restrictions Apple puts on the App Store, these attacks are very small, and often caught before an app is listed on the App Store.

However, iPhones can act as carriers to malware, bringing viruses to your computer without you knowing when you sync them up. Getting a malware scanning app will limit this, though the choice of security software for iPhones is smaller than that for Androids:

Trend Micro Smart Surfing

Trend smart surfingAvailable for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, the Trend Micro Smart Surfing app protects you from web threats while browsing the internet on your device. Once downloaded it'll block access to any URLs that are unsafe or malicious, and a notification will appear in the browser. It does this by quickly and invisibly checking the URL against a constantly updated Web Reputation database.

It's available free from Apple's App Store, and works on phones with iOS v2.1 or higher.

VirusBarrier

Virus BarrierIntego's VirusBarrier was the first antivirus and malware scanning app to be approved and listed on the App Store.

Unfortunately, unlike the Lookout Mobile Security app available for Androids, VirusBarrier can't auto scan your file system or run scheduled checks - this is because of constraints with the iOS. However, instead when you receive an email attachment, you can hold down on that attachment and "Open in VirusBarrier" to scan for malware.

It's a bit of a pain that it's not automatic, but it can protect against anything malicious that is sent your way, including spyware, Trojan horses, adware, hacker tools, dialers and keyloggers. It costs £1.99 and is suitable for all iPhones running iOS 4.

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