Do viruses pose any real threat to our phones?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: November 28, 2012

As phones continue to become more intricate, so do the programs that are developed for mobile phone platforms. With functions like applications and full-functioning websites, it's becoming easier for hackers to create malicious software for us to stumble upon and accidentally download. These can come in the form of games, documents, or even Bluetooth transfers. But do these viral programs pose any real threat to us?

In short, yes. With many people storing important and identifying information (Bank Account Info, Social Security Numbers, etc.) on their phones, it's no wonder that hackers want to get their hands on the abundance of useful information we have to offer them. Our "phones" are steadily becoming more and more like fully functioning computers, with some people even preferring to use just their phone to participate in their day-to-day web routine than even worry about using a computer.

Some platforms, namely Android, are easier for viruses to access due to its open platform functionality. Any hacker with $25, a virus program, and a clever app name can gain access to thourands of phones if he or she knew what they were doing. Not only Android, but even more so rooted Androids and also jailbroken iPhones can become culprits of these attacks. Windows Phone and BlackBerry - any smartphone, really - could become a prime target.

Are we too passive with our information? Personally, sometimes I don't think anything of it when I get the notification on my phone that says "Such and such would like to use your location" or "This place wants to send push notifications". I normally just press 'Accept' and move on with it, but realistically I should be more careful with what information I'm willing to give. I think sometimes we as humans like to think that we would never be the victim of any sort of crime activity against us and, without such experience otherwise, lack the caution needed to properly protect ourselves. 

I had a few issues with my Androids. Now, whether they were actual viruses or just glitches in some sketchy apps I downloaded (I was very "app happy" when I got my first Android) is impossible to tell, but it wasn't anything a little factory reset couldn't fix. I was essentially treating my phone the same way I treat my computer: What? A problem? Time to reformat! Maybe not the easiest solution but it seemed to work.

I haven't had any (known) issues regarding viruses on my iPhone, but that in itself doesn't mean I don't have one. It's kind of a scary thought once you think about it. Somebody could know pretty much anything they wanted to know about me simply by accessing my phone, and I wouldn't even know any better. I just download whatever app I want and trust that it won't do anything with my phone.

I've learned since my Android mishaps to read the ratings on the app beforehand. More than likely you're not going to be the first person to download the app, and most people are going to leave a review if they've had a bad experience to help future potential customers (you) decide whether you really want to download that app or not. It helped me out tremendously, but of course all phones still hiccup every once in a while at some point so it's not 100% unavoidable. You can also download apps like Lookout or McAfee to help scan for these viruses before downloading anything, but these apps can also come with unwanted "side effects", so be aware of that as well.

I feel that as time goes on, we'll see that more dangerous and malicious software will pop up and we'll need to be even more careful about what we download. 

So readers, what do you think about hackers and viruses? Do you think we need to be more aware of our own information stored on our devices? Let me know what you think in the comments!