Mistaken belief The bulk of smartphone users do not have antivirus software, thinking that only computers and laptops are vulnerable. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dubai: So you have a freshly minted smartphone and have downloaded all the apps you fancy. Unbeknown to many, those innocuous-looking apps could get you in big trouble with your personal data open to compromise.

The reason: Most smartphones, especially Android handhelds, do not bother to install antivirus software to ward off malicious code, experts warn.

The bulk of smartphone users do not have antivirus software due to the mistaken belief that only computers and laptops are vulnerable.

The smartphone market in the UAE is strong with a 73 per cent penetration and most consumers looking to upgrade devices, a TNS Annual Mobile Life Study revealed.

“The problem with smartphones is that people think they are more trustworthy than computers and laptops so people rarely install antivirus software,” said Fadi A. Aloul, associate professor of computer engineering at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and founder of the AUS Computer Security Lab. “The smartphone is just like a minicomputer — if you download something from a malicious site, you are at risk of a security breach which is why antivirus software is important,” he added.

Sitting ducks

An IT security expert who used to work with Dubai Police has demonstrated the dangers smartphone users are exposed to, which makes them virtual sitting ducks for hackers with malicious intent. Khalid Al Hawasli, security analysis manager at Help AG, said security weaknesses in mobile apps can be more dangerous than web-based security gaps application.

“Vulnerabilities in mobile apps are more dangerous than a regular website because the latter can be fixed easily in one go. When it comes to mobile apps, you already have thousands of copies of the vulnerable apps on user devices and you have to depend on the users to manually update the app — which is unlikely,” said Al Hawasli. Ahmad Al Khateeb, managing director of Shifra (a Smart Home Automation solutions provider) has warned that Android smartphones are particularly vulnerable.

“iPhones might not need an antivirus software because Apple has a strict process for apps to be allowed in the Appstore. Android, on the other hand, is more prone to malicious software because it has a more relaxed process regarding the apps featured in the Playstore.”

Gulf News spoke to experts to learn how smartphone and computer users can avoid falling prey to hackers. The experts urged to install antivirus software on their smartphones educate themselves. Here are some facts about cyber market and crimes:

• By 2017, the global cyber security market is expected to rocket to $120.1 billion (Dh441 billion) from $63.7 billion in 2011

• $100 - Annual cost of global cyber crime

• 556 million - average number of cyber crime victims per year

• 1.5 billion - Average number of cyber crime victims per day

• 600,000 - Number of Facebook accounts compromised daily

• 71% - Percentage of male smartphone users who become cybercrime victims

• 63% - Percentage of female smartphone users who become cybercrime victims

Source: go-gulf.com