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According to Panda Security's 2015 annual report, more than 84 million new malware samples were detected and neutralised by PandaLabs during 2015. 

Besides trojans – a malicious program that, once downloaded, does all sorts of things you're not aware of, including sending SMSes, downloading apps, stealing data, tracking your location and banking fraud – according to the report 'PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) and different types of Cryptolockers (or ransomware) were big players last year, with the latter causing mayhem worldwide by kidnapping information in return for a ransom payment.'

While most of us know we need to have anti-virus software on our computers and laptops, we're not quite so savvy when it comes to our mobile devices. 

In 2015, one of the biggest scares was security company Zimperium's announcement that as many as one billion Android devices were potentially affected by a built-in security vulnerability.

Called Stagefright it refers to 'a series of vulnerabilities in Android’s media display software that provides attackers with complete control of the phone by simply sending it an MMS message with a specially crafted media attachment'. Before you panic, Alcatel-Lucent's Motive Security Malware report states that 'so far there is no known malware in the wild that exploits this vulnerability, but a proof-of-concept exploit that provided remote root access to the phone was demonstrated at the Black Hat USA conference in August 2015'. 

According to Alcatel-Lucent, the first half of 2015 saw 'the mobile infection rate decline to 0.5% in Q1 due to a reduction in infections on devices running the Android operating system and then rise to 0.75% at the end of Q2 due to a noticeable increase in adware infections on PCs running the Microsoft Windows operating system (Windows/PCs).'

The report estimates that: 

  • 80% of infections on the mobile network are attributable to Windows/PCs connected via dongles, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots or tethered through phones.
  • Mobile spyware is definitely on the increase. Ten of the malware entries on the top 25 mobile infection list are mobile spyware. These are apps that are used to spy on the phone’s owner . They track the phone’s location, monitor ingoing and outgoing calls and text messages, monitor email and track the victim’s web browsing. 

What can you do to protect yourself?

According to Vernon Fryer, Vodacom’s Group Technology Security Officer, there are a number of steps you can take as an individual:

  • Install a quality antivirus on your phone – While most people have antivirus software installed on their computers, many people don't have antivirus on their smartphone or tablets – even though there is an extraordinary amount of information on our smartphones.

There are very good ones available, but make sure you get one from a vendor that is well known in the industry such as Norton or Symantic. Stay away from freebies as many of these include malicious software and viruses.

  • Don’t share unknown applications – Friends often share cool apps with friends without knowing what’s actually happening in the background of these apps. Many unknown apps consume data, deplete battery life and even harvest information. As a rule, only download apps through an official app store.
  • Back up your phone at least once a week – Use cloud services to automatically back up your phone at least once a week. If you have an Android phone, your contacts, photos and documents can be automatically backed up using your Google account. As a Vodacom customer you can also use the free Vodafone Cloud app to back up your important information and documents.
  • Don’t click on strange URLs  – Be careful of SMSes and emails that contain links that lure you to a URL. Never click on any links from people you don’t know or that appear unusual.
  • Password protect your device – This is very important. Smart devices are often lost and stolen and you should always ensure that you password protect your devices so that criminals can’t access your information.

Vodacom Secure Device Manager for enterprise

Expanding this to the business environment, Vodacom Secure Device Manager (VSDM) is a secure, cloud-hosted solution that caters for BYOD, mobile- and flexible-working, and it helps mitigate threats from a security point of view. 

It runs on the AirWatch platform, which, because of its comprehensive functionality and flexibility, appears most frequently in Gartner clients’ vendor enterprise mobility management (EMM) shortlists. VSDM is cross-platform and supports iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Samsung Knox and Windows 10.

There are six different Vodacom Secure Device Manager bundles, from a basic licence to a platinum one. This makes it possible for IT departments to split their implementation and have some employees on a basic licence, some on a mid-level licence and executives on a top-end licence.

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