Protect your Android device from malware

Android device

The adoption rate of mobile devices continues to soar, with Android leading the way. The open-source operating system that is led by Google is now found on more than half of all smartphones. In fact, research firm Strategy Analytics found that 81.3 percent, or 204.4 million, of smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2013 were powered by Android.

This massive user base has caught the attention of cybercriminals, who have begun to double down on their efforts to illegally obtain personal information from Android owners. While most mobile malware is found in countries like Russia and China, users from Europe and the United States aren’t completely immune.

Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threat analyst for security firm BitDefender, explained in an interview with CNET that malware is more accessible than ever before because “no coding is required to bind Android apps with malicious programs.”

The analyst went on to say that “people look at phones more like phones, rather than intelligent computers,” adding that most people don’t understand that these devices are susceptible to malware similar to the strands found on PCs.

The most common malware regardless of platform is related to short message fraud and personal life invasion. Botezatu noted that “one of most important things that can happen with Android is privacy invasion.” Mobile malware can allow cybercriminals to intercept messages, monitor calls, steal personal information, and even listen in with the device’s microphone.

Perhaps even more troubling is that cybercriminals are now coming up with more complex ways to attack mobile devices, most of which are not protected. Botezatu pointed me to an alarming statistic from research firm IDC, which revealed that only 5 percent of smartphones and tablets have some sort of antivirus program installed.

While antivirus apps can help secure your device, there are other steps that can be taken to better protect yourself from encountering mobile malware.
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Legitimate app stores

When downloading apps it’s imperative that you only do so from a legitimate app store; that means from companies like Google, Amazon, Samsung, or another major manufacturer or carrier.

These marketplaces are monitored and scanned for potentially dangerous or fraudulent programs. On occasion, however, malicious apps sometimes slip through the cracks, often disguised as legitimate ones.

A fake BBM app recently appeared in the Google Play store and managed to secure more than 100,000 downloads before being removed. The app itself was nothing more than a spamming service.

Suspicious apps

The fake BBM app is a great example. While anyone who actually read the reviews wouldn’t have downloaded it, thousands of users did. One of the best defenses against malware is to notice things like suspicious apps with outrageous promises, bad reviews, and sketchy app permissions.

Pirated apps
I’m not here to lecture you on the ethics of pirating programs (it’s illegal), but I am here to warn you about the dangerous that can come from it. As Botezatu said, taking a legitimate Android application package (APK) file and binding it with a malicious program is a relatively simple process.

Most pirated or cracked apps usually contain some form of malware. You could spend a couple of bucks on that game you always wanted, which in the long run will give you hours of entertainment and reward the developer for their hard work, or you can pirate it and put your personal information at risk. The decision shouldn’t be hard.

For those of you interested in sideloading apps, make sure to only do so with apps downloaded from a trusted developer’s Web site.

Settings

Google includes numerous settings in the Android operating system that can prevent malicious attacks. Devices running Android 2.2 or higher, which essentially means nearly all Android devices, have access to Google’s malware scanner. Prior to installing an application you downloaded outside of the Play store, Google will scan the app and warn you of any potential threats.

This feature is enabled by default and can be accessed in the Google Settings app in your device’s app drawer. Alternatively, devices running Android 4.2 or higher can access the feature by going to Settings, clicking on Security, and scrolling down to Verify apps.

Devices running Android 4.2 or higher are also protected from premium SMS charges. A notification will alert you if an app is attempting to send a text message using a premium service, at which point you can approve or deny the transaction. This feature is built directly into the operating system and does not need to be enabled.

Software updates

While this may not be an option for most users, if there is an update for your device make sure you download and install it. Manufacturers, carriers, and Google are constantly pushing out updates with bug fixes, enhancements, and new features that can make your device more secure.

To check for an update on stock Android go to Settings, click on the “About phone” or “About tablet” option, and select System Updates.

Antivirus apps

The Google Play store is also home to hundreds of antivirus apps that can offer an extra layer of protection. Finding the right one, however, can sometimes be difficult. A simple “antivirus” search in the store yields more than 250 results. So which one should you choose?

Companies like Avast, AVG, BitDefender, Kaspersky, Sophos, Symantec (Norton), and TrendMicro have long and established histories as some of the most trusted brands in the industry.

Newcomers Lookout and TrustGo have also made a name for themselves as some of the top mobile security providers. Earlier this year, AV-Test, an independent IT security institute that ranks antivirus apps based on protection and usability, rated TrustGo and Lookout as the top two antivirus programs on the Android platform.

Each security provider I mentioned above scored higher than average for protection against malware, with most detecting malicious apps more than 99 percent of the time. Any of these programs would be a safe and smart option for your smartphone or tablet.

Many of these companies also offer additional features for a small monthly fee. These include things like anti-theft protection, safer Web browsing, device tracking, remote wiping, and more. It should be noted, however, that Google’s Android Device Manager offers similar functionality for locating a lost or stolen device. The tool can be accessed online or through a free app on the Play store.

As for antivirus programs, whether you opt for the basic or premium features, Botezatu noted that, at least concerning BitDefender, the basic malware protection is the same.

“We are trying to make security available to all users with no distinction,” he said, adding that the premium features are just an extra layer of protection.

Apple looking at bigger iPhone screens, multiple colors: sources

Apple Inc is exploring launching iPhones with bigger screens, as well as cheaper models in a range of colors, over the next year, said four people with knowledge of the matter, as it takes a cue from rival Samsung Electronics.

Apple looking at bigger iPhone screens, multiple colors

Apple looking at bigger iPhone screens, multiple colors

The moves, which are still under discussion, underscore how the California-based firm that once ruled the smartphone market is increasingly under threat from its aggressive South Korean competitor. Samsung has overtaken Apple in market share through the popularity of its bigger-screen Galaxy “phablets” and by flooding the market with a range of products at different prices.

Apple is looking at introducing at least two bigger iPhones next year – one with a 4.7-inch screen and one with a 5.7-inch screen – said the sources, including those in the supply chain in Asia. They said suppliers have been approached with plans for the larger screens, but noted it is still unclear whether Apple will actually launch its flagship product in the larger sizes.

“They constantly change product specifications almost to the final moment, so you’re not really sure whether this is the final prototype,” said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Apple declined to comment.

UNDER PRESSURE

Apple’s possible shift to offer what is often referred to as “phablets” – chunkier smartphones not quite big enough to qualify as tablets – comes as the long-time consumer and investor darling faces pressure to deliver more than one new handset model a year. Critics say its pace of innovation has slowed since the death of legendary co-founder Steve Jobs.

The iPhone 5 launched last September was the first to veer away from the Apple phone’s 3.5-inch screen, which Jobs famously deemed “the perfect size for consumers” and had been used in every iPhone since the iconic device was unveiled in 2007.

The current iPhone 5 has one of the smaller screens among the best-selling smartphones in the mobile market, where consumers spend more time browsing the web and streaming content. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2 have 5-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively.

For this year, Apple is expected to launch two new models, widely referred to as the iPhone 5S, with new fingerprint technology, and a cheaper version in plastic casing, supply chain sources have said. Apple plans to dress up the cheaper phone in a range of 5-6 colors to differentiate it from the more expensive model that has traditionally come only in black and white.

The U.S. firm has discussed a price of $99 for the cheaper phone, the timing of which could slip to next year, one of the people said. It’s not yet clear what the final price would be.

Apple – whose revenue growth has decelerated from the heady days of 2010 when it introduced the iPad and when the iPhone was the world’s top selling smartphone – has sought ways to re-energize its flagship line.

BROADER PRODUCT RANGE

Analysts say the company needs a cheaper gadget to push on in growth markets in China and India, and to counter Samsung’s edge in having phones priced up and down the spectrum. China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, is set to grow 48 percent this year, outpacing the global increase of 31 percent, according to industry forecasts.

While Apple only offers a single phone model across all markets, it has successfully marketed the iPod music player and its iPad in different sizes and at varying prices. Asked at last month’s AllThingsD industry conference why Apple hasn’t launched different sized iPhones, CEO Tim Cook said: “We haven’t so far. That doesn’t shut off the future.”

He explained that the range of iPods serve different audiences and needs. “On the phone, that’s the question. Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?”

Cook noted a larger screen comes with trade-offs on features such as battery life, resolution and brightness.

Test production for both the standard and cheaper iPhone models aims to start next month, with mass production ramping up in August to meet a September launch target, two people said.

“Trial production was originally planned to start in June, but the mixing of colors is taking longer than expected as Apple has very high and idealistic standards,” said one source in Asia, adding 20 million plastic iPhones are expected to ship in the October-December quarter.

Japan’s Sharp Corp and Japan Display and South Korea’s LG Display will supply the panels for the aluminum iPhone 5S and the plastic iPhone, while Hon Hai Precision Industry will assemble the higher-end phone and Pegatron will put together the cheaper model.

See On: http://www.reuters.com

Top 10 Best Android Apartment Hunting Apps

While moving is still an incredibly difficult task, it has gotten quite a bit easier over the last few years, thanks in large part to the continuous adoption of smartphones. It use to be that you’d have scour the newspaper to find an apartment to move into. No newspaper that day? Too bad. Now, however, there are numerous apps available for your Android device that can make the apartment shopping experience just a little less stressful. Keep reading, and we will countdown the Top 10 Apps for Apartment Hunting, in yet another Android Headlines Top 10 Android Best Apps List.

10. Apartment Finder

ApartmentFinder

Apartment Finder is an app that has been available for a while now, which is both good and bad. The main complaint among users is that some of the listings have not been updated for a while, meaning that prices are rather out of date. For newer listings, however, the app offers a very nice interface and search process that allows you to break it down by number of bedrooms/bathrooms and more.

9. MyApartmentMap Apartments Tool

MyApartmentMap

MyApartmentMap is an app that queries multiple databases for apartments available in the United States. The app can break down apartments available by those on sale, which is great for those of us who are budget minded. You can also save listings to view later and even receive notifications when a new apartment that meets your criteria becomes available. You can also create a “wishlist” of apartments, by saving ones you like to look at later.

8. cPro Craigslist Client

cPro

Now, I know you may be wondering why a Craigslist app is in our Top 10 Apartment Finder Apps list, and we have an explanation. Despite all of the horror stories you may have heard about the online service, Craigslist is actually an incredibly useful service. While it may not offer many of the apartment specific features as other apps, the cPro Craigslist Client is a great app for finding things available both near you and on the other side of the United States.

7. Apartment Rentals In Canada

Apartments In Canada

Developers love to center themselves and apps around the United States, and therefore, people in other countries are often given the shaft when it comes to location based apps. Apartment Rentals In Canada is an, you guessed it, for finding apartments for rent in Canada. It lets you view nearby apartments that are available and if you like it, you can even view the street view for that area, assuming it is available for the neighborhood in question. It also offers the ability to contact the owner/landlord to inquire about the apartment.

6. HotPads Rentals & Real Estate

HotPads

HotPads branches out from apartments and searches homes for sale in your area, but thankfully, you can narrow it down to apartments. It’s a location based app, meaning that it can show you places available near your current location. For families, you can also view information about the school district the home is located within. Pictures are a big HotPads thanks to a nice gallery interface.

5. Apartments.com

Apartments.com

Apartments.com is an app that also lets you search for available places with your GPS. One thing that sets it apart from the competition is that you can view video tours of select apartments, perhaps eliminating a pointless walkthrough of something you hate. It also offers the ability to filter your results by radius, bedrooms, bathrooms, price, pet policies, parking availability and more. You can also get directions to an apartment directly within the app.

4. Apartments by Rent.com

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 1.29.32 PM

Apartments by Rent.com is yet another location based app, but with several more features than its competitors. For one, you can zoom in on the images and floorplans of apartments, which is nice, as I was shocked to discover that most other apartment apps do not offer zooming. Also, if you happen to be out and about looking for apartments, you can snap a picture of one you like and add it to the app for feature reference. This is nice, as it lets you compare apartments not in the app to those that are listed in the app.

3. Apartments

Apartments

While not the most cleverly named app, Apartments is one of the best apps for finding a rental place on a budget. It lets you view the houses on sale that day or week and offers some other budget incentives, as well. It also supports voice search, so you don’t have to type in those pesky addresses any more. Like several other apps, Apartments also supports the ability to view the street view of the neighbor an apartment is located in.

2. Zillow Rentals – Houses & Apartments

Zillow

Zillow is another app that includes homes and apartments available, but yet again, you can completely eliminate the house searching part. One of the coolest features about Zillow is that you can draw your own boundaries on location. It doesn’t have to be a city line. It could be a road, state, or whatever you want. You can also view listings side by side, making comparing features a very easy process.

1. Trulia – Apts & Homes for Rent

Trulia

Trulia is truly the jack of all trades for apartment hunting. It takes all the features we liked about the other apps and combines it into one. Trulia offers an incredibly simple, yet feature-rich Holo-inspired design, making the pictures of the apartments look either really good or really bad. It supports nearly every city in the United States and lets you filter results by location, the number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, amenities, and much more. It also supports push notifications, so you never miss an apartment that fits your needs.

See on: androidheadlines.com