Is your smartphone safe from scammers? Why you could be at risk

Derek Arbogast
·4 min read

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Cybercriminals are targeting cell phones this holiday season. (Photo: Getty Images)
Cybercriminals are targeting cell phones this holiday season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Call 2020 the Year of the Phish. “Phishing” is when cyber criminals try to extract your confidential information by sending a phony email or SMS text (in which case it’s called “smishing”) that appears to be from a trusted source. It has long been their most successful “threat action,” and now the bad guys are targeting your mobile devices.

According to a new report by Lookout, a mobile security platform, 88 percent of US consumer phishing attacks in 2020 have targeted mobile devices.

Why the uptick? The COVID-19 pandemic has more of us are working at home, using our phones and tablets to keep in touch and attending virtual meetings.

Also, as Threatpost editor-in-chief Tom Spring explains, manufacturers’ safeguards are not quite where they need to be. “The type of protections that exist on Mac and Windows operating systems aren’t as mature in the mobile space,” he tells Yahoo Life. “They’re getting there but criminals are taking advantage of new opportunities as they crop up.”

If your internet connection suddenly gets slower, if you’re data consumption spikes, or if your battery life starts to sag, you may have been infected with a malicious app. So say the good folks at Norton Security Online, which offers an array of rock-solid protections against phishing, smishing, viruses, and malware.

Shop it: Norton Security Online, 30 days free then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Norton Security Online provides state-of-the-art encryption and real-time protection from viruses, spyware, malware and scammers across 5 of your devices and will alert you to security and privacy risks when you’re talking, texting or typing away at home or at a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Small screen, big danger: Be sure to scrutinize URLs that arrive via text. (Photo: Getty Images)
Small screen, big danger: Be sure to scrutinize URLs that arrive via text. (Photo: Getty Images)

It isn’t just the lack of built-in software protection that makes your cellphone so vulnerable. It’s also the small screen that makes it harder for you to be vigilant when, say, you receive a link via email or text that looks innocent but may not be.

“Sometimes when I get an email alert from a legitimate vendor it doesn’t always display correctly in my in-box on my mobile phone,” says Spring. On your desktop of laptop, simply hovering over said link will reveal the complete URL, allowing you to spot any telltale spelling or coding irregularities, like a shipping delivery notification from Fedex, but the link is actually for Fedx.com. Other examples of telltale signs you’re about to get scammed: amzon.com, not amazon.com; or an address lacking the all-important “https:” identifier. As Spring puts it, “you sometimes can’t see the entire link,” on your mobile device.

Also, let’s face it, the potential for distraction is much greater when you’re on your phone. “You may be talking to somebody else, you may be flipping around on Facebook, you may be checking your Twitter feed,” Spring says, “You suddenly get a notification with a link, and you’re hoping that you’ve got an awesome delivery waiting for you.” Oh, you’ll get a delivery, all right....

You may be wondering, are Android phones more at risk than iPhones? The short answer is...no.

“There’s a common assumption that if you have an iPhone that you don’t have to worry as much about falling prey to these types of scams,” Spring says. “That is not true.” He adds: “Apple does have more safeguards when it comes to downloading applications, but a lot of these scams will identify what type of phone you’re on and cater a scam message to your operating system, in real time.”

Shop it: Norton Security Online, 30 days free then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Norton will keep all of your devices safe and secure (Photo: Norton)
Norton will keep all of your devices safe and secure (Photo: Norton)

The upshot? No matter what device you’re on, which brand or operating system, you’re going to need protection, now more than ever... and Norton Security Online can give it to you. Your data, privacy, and safety are too important—put them in tried and trusted hands.

Shop it: Norton Security Online, 30 days free then $5 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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