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October 26, 2012

Beware! Your Apple iOS or Android Phone Can Be Infected By Malware

As technology becomes more prevalent, the viruses or, rather, the predators that create them, increase as well.

According to McAfee, a protection provider, malware is multiplying faster than ever. In the last quarter alone, there were “1.5 million more attacks than previously. With new technology, comes changes in the threats — botnets and ransomware are just some of the new things to watch out for.”

Computers using Windows operating systems are still hit the hardest but more viruses are now targeting Macs and the Android system that powers a large portion of Smartphones, two of the emerging computer foundations.

Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, says the attacks permeate every level of computer use, from home computers to business and government machines, as well as the previously unheard-of mobile market.

“Flashback,” a Trojan horse virus that started in 2011, infected more than half a million Macs all over the world. Being used to immunity from malware, many Mac users were unprepared for the virus, which posed as a Flash plug-in and stole usernames and passwords from thousands of computers and websites. While iOS has remained relatively safe from threats, new problems are popping up every day.

Google continues to try to keep good security on their Android operating system, but criminals are targeting the OS, especially as it becomes popular with less-computer-savvy and more susceptible users. McAfee’s report indicates it is the most popular mobile operating system being targeted currently.

One big trend emerging in the malware industry is “ransomware.” It erases personal data and can hold it hostage until the owner pays money via the Internet to set it free. This is only one of the many programs that is becoming more popular among cyber criminals. What should you do?

Install Microsoft Security Essentials for PCS: One program professionals and other computer repair companies recommend is the anti-virus program for the basic user — Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s free, easy to use, updated frequently and provides great protection from most Internet-born parasites. The fact that it’s made by Microsoft, the company that makes Windows, is a great benefit. Who is better equipped to know which Windows vulnerabilities hackers are targeting? Programmers can then integrate the fix seamlessly into Windows.

Avast! For MACS: If you just can’t get past the idea of trusting Microsoft to protect your Windows PC, or if you are running an alternate operating system, consider Avast! free antivirus. Avast is one of the highest-rated antivirus programs, according to AV Comparatives, an independent antivirus program reviewer. Avast offers both a free and a paid version, and boasts one of the fastest virus scans on the market. Avast! also uses fewer system resources when scanning, so you can continue to use your computer normally while the scan runs in the background. Anyone who has been held hostage by a seemingly endless scan that makes everything else on your system slow to a useless crawl can appreciate this benefit. Fun side note: You can select different voices to proclaim, “Ding! Avast’s virus definitions have been updated.” I am quite partial to Pirate.

Lookout Mobile for Smartphones: For the best mobile security app, check out Lookout Mobile Security, a free anti-virus and back-up solution that has received a five-star rating from CNET and PC World. It will even help you track down a lost mobile phone by showing its location on Google Maps. The premium version (available for $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year) adds the ability to back up photos and call history and perform a remote wipe if your phone is stolen.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service for consumers and businesses. Andrea is the writer of two weekly columns, Computer Nerds On Call a nationally syndicated column for Scripps-Howard News Service, and Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She regularly appears on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, Good Morning Arizona and MORE Good Day Portland, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle and gadgets.