Warning on virus dangers of apps

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2011, 12:00am


The popularity of apps on smartphones has made them an effective target for the spreading of computer viruses, the city's leading online safety watchdog has warned.

More than 2,000 items of malware, or malicious software, are known to have targeted smartphones in Hong Kong, says Roy Ko Wai-Tak, manager of the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team.

'As the number of malware on smartphones is increasing, so will the number of malicious apps,' he said.

A report conducted in July by Symantec, a leading security software maker, found that 42 per cent of respondents were not aware of mobile device security.

About 40 per cent of mobile phones are not even password protected.

There are almost 14 million mobile users - amounting to a mobile penetration rate of up to 200 per cent - in Hong Kong. On average, every person in the city has two cellphones. Among all mobile phone users, more than 50 per cent use smartphones.

Sixty-seven per cent of respondents said using their mobile devices to make a payment would be faster and more convenient because they can make a transaction anytime and anywhere. But only 51 per cent think the practice is unsafe.

Another survey released by Google last week found that 23 per cent of smartphone users had used their devices to make online purchases.

'Online purchases involve credit card transactions in which your confidential information could be easily leaked,' said C. J. Desai, senior vice-president of Endpoint and Mobility Group.

'People have a higher risk of losing their mobile phones than laptops when they travel on the subway or in a taxi. So, the chance of your personal information being stolen from mobile devices becomes higher.'

He named the two most common types of malware - spyware and adware. Spyware refers to mobile apps that allow someone to track and monitor the usage and location of a mobile device, and record text messages, e-mails, call logs and GPS locations. Once you download it, you might be tracked - and you have no way of knowing. Adware, or advertising-supported software, automatically displays or downloads advertisements to a device.