The Pew Research Center, famous for its studies of human behavior, has shared some new findings about teens and online privacy, and some may come as a surprise to parents. Researchers surveyed 802 teens to learn more about their social networking attitudes and safety habits.
Social networking has taken on new proportions in terms of personal friend networks, and behavior on Facebook. In fact, getting a Facebook account seems to be a teenage rite of passage. Facebook wants their members to be at least thirteen years old – an appealing opportunity for younger kids to anticipate.
Here are some interesting insights and food for thought, gleaned from the Pew study.
A typical teen Facebook user has 300 friends! You may know some kids who accept every friend request that shows up, and some who befriend all of their friends’ friends, as well. This is certainly the spirit and intent of true networking – perhaps these kids will be our politicians and PR experts in the future.
According to this survey, many teens are tired of Facebook “dramas” being played out online, and adult participation has dampened their enthusiasm about social networking. But, participating in Facebook has become an important part of teen socialization, and even those who are tired of the game tend to stay in because of social expectations.
An encouraging finding is that 60% of teenage Facebook users do not share their profiles, and most are confident about managing their privacy settings. Apparently much of the effort to educate kids about online privacy has been effective. Only 9% of the teens interviewed express a serious concern about uninvited access to their private data.
We know there are some destructive and negative incidents resulting from oversharing on Facebook, but teens seem “considerably more likely to report positive experiences than negative ones. For instance, 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves.”
Overall, it seems teenagers may be a lot more savvy than we give them credit for. Friends and social life have always been the most important factors in the life of teenagers. Facebook allows them to effectively put their best face forward, hide what they don’t want to reveal about themselves, and take responsibility for their own privacy and safety. Parental presence in their social lives has never been popular with teenagers. Playing out dramas online may not be desirable, but they’re going to play them out somewhere.
Perhaps teachers and family guidance are helping make our kids safer cyber citizens. In any case, teenagers are probably the same as they’ve always been – trying out new relationships, personas and identities until they find a combination that suits their budding adulthood.
Until you feel your children are old enough to make sound social networking decisions, try working with a well-known family app that connects you with their activities online, and one that will adjust for more freedom as your kids grow up.
Do you know a teenager who has a huge Facebook network? Share your stories with us on our blog, or join the discussion on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.
Safety and education of our customers are top priorities at NQ Mobile. Since your mobile security is our business, the more you know about what’s out there, the safer it will be for all smartphone users.
Root exploit malware
While conducting a Security Study, NQ’s team of researchers described an ongoing phenomenon in the realm of mobile malware — one of which we should all be aware. “Root exploits” consist of malicious code designed to bypass your smartphone’s built-in security system, and gain privileges that allow it to do its intended dirty work.
The dirty work done by root exploits commonly involves stealthy dialing of premium numbers at great cost to the phone’s owner. Like most malware, the intention behind root exploit code is to steal money as quickly as possible, before the invader is discovered and eradicated.
Could it affect my phone?
The answer is Yes. Like other strains of malware, we can expect the number of root exploits to grow, especially since “rootkit” applications can be easily purchased online. In fact, our researchers found that one third of the malware dataset they studied contained a root exploit. Many other forms of malware often contain two or more root exploits, just to make sure the malware reaches its intended goal of commandeering your phone.
How does it get in?
Root exploit code can be transported to your phone, buried within a legitimate app, sometimes enclosed in a Trojan-horse type capsule of code. It’s possible to download this kind of infected app without any sign of trouble. Your smartphone’s system is complex and, in the case of Android, contains over 90 open-source libraries. What this means is that the system is open for outside application development – a real opportunity for malware authors.
Earlier examples of rootkit exploits proved to be simple installations of packaged malware, purchased right off the Internet. However, recent upgrades within root exploits are disturbing. A more sophisticated brand of root exploit malware is programmed to be activated by some trigger, which could either be a phone call made by you, or some other activity on the phone.
A newer variety, instead of embedding itself in an app, is encrypted and stored in the app as a resource or asset file, making it unrecognizable. It may have a misleading suffix assigned to it, such as .png, that makes it look like a harmless graphic or other normal element of the app. It downloads quietly, and the infected file sits in your system, waiting for a trigger that will bring it to life.
What to do
Root exploit malware is disturbing, especially if we consider the consistent rate at which malware’s growing in the mobile arena. It’s important to download a strong and comprehensive mobile security product to stop root exploit activity before has a chance to begin. That’s it! Protecting your phone is easy, and it’s free.
As always, we at NQ Mobile hope that educating our readers about malware will be an ongoing and meaningful process for mobile device owners and their families. We hope you’ll never see an instance of malware in your smartphone, but it’s better to be prepared and protected, just in case.
Please leave your comments, stories and questions in our Comments section below, or visit us on Facebook. Don’t forget to go to our website for a free download of the most powerful mobile protection on the market, NQ Mobile Security.
The growing mobile malware scourge makes news every month. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky folks who’s never had an experience with fraud or malware, but fraudsters who make a living with it are reaching new lows these days. If your data’s being siphoned off, your privacy invaded or your money being swallowed up, how would you know? Here are a few things to keep an eye on.
Has your phone’s behavior become slow or erratic? Does it act sluggish when performing the same functions it did rapidly in the past? Is its battery draining at a more rapid pace than usual?
If malware has entered your phone’s system, it could be performing activities in the background, such as placing unauthorized text messages to premium numbers, sending out bots that gather and transmit your contact information, or other mischief.
Do you notice when you’re talking on your phone that your calls get disturbed or even dropped completely, for no apparent reason?
Same answer. Each form of malware has a specific task, whether it’s a bot that collects and sends out your data to a remote location, or a Trojan that opens up and releases viruses, or bots that have specific jobs. Bad code is programmed to go to work once it’s downloaded and receives a pre-determined signal to wake up. What you could be noticing is background activities that are interfering with your phone’s normal functions.
Check your phone bill carefully. Are there charges for SMS messages you know you didn’t send, or are small charges appearing that you can’t explain?
Some malware has the ability to dial out text messages from your phone to “premium” numbers, which automatically charge you for the call. This can be happening repeatedly without your knowledge. This happens in the background – you don’t see or hear it happening, but you’ll see the charges on your bill – they can become very expensive if they aren’t caught early. Small charges on your bill might indicate that your account’s being tested for viability.
As a matter of course, always check your credit card and bank statements. If you’ve downloaded malware that might have stolen your passwords or financial data, you could see your credit being used for things you never dreamed of buying.
Before you download apps, take a moment to look up reviews, and make sure you get all your apps from reliable sources, such as Google Play. Never, ever accept a free app, and try to avoid clicking on spammy ads and offers. Educate yourself about URLs, and how to spot one that doesn’t look right. Finally, don’t respond to any SMS messages, voice messages or emails from a sender with whom you’re not familiar.
Strong mobile security protection can prevent any form of nasty malware affecting your phone. With just a single download you can cross malware concerns off your list. Do it today, and relax about malware.
How smarter criminals are coming after your personal information
By now, most everyone has heard the story: on April 23rd, the AP’s twitter account was “hacked.” The tweet, which was a fairly obviously fake, still managed to send Wall Street into a panic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 145 points in 2 minutes.
The media flurry following this recent “attack” centered around the effect of social media on world markets. One little piece of misinformation had the power – albeit incredibly temporary – to spur a stock sell-off and make the dollar tumble.
What hasn’t been widely discussed is that this wasn’t the result of hacking like most people think about hacking. It was the result of carefully executed, targeted phishing campaign, or as it’s now called, “spear phishing.” The offending email looked legit. It didn’t come from a Nigerian prince. It wasn’t full of grammatical errors. Instead, it was a sophisticated message that targeted a specific group of people with a link relevant to them and appearing to come from a colleague. And it was a good enough fake that someone fell for it. And the rest is history.
The Reality of the Threat Landscape
So why is this important? It highlights the reality of the threat landscape.
The week prior to the AP spear-fishing attack, my company, NQ Mobile, released our 2012 and Q1 2013 mobile threat reports. The key takeaways of those reports were:
The number of threats is increasing
Threats are getting more and more sophisticated
Social Engineering tactics are increasingly being leveraged by malware developers
One of the main methods of infection is through malicious URLs
The AP Twitter hack gives us a perfect example of where things are headed. And that was executed, we assume, through a PC. Such a threat would be even more difficult to detect from a mobile handset. On a PC, the real URL will generally display when you hover your mouse over it, regardless of the text of the link. On a mobile device, the URL is generally concealed, making this type of scam incredibly easy to fall for.
When mobile security companies such as NQ Mobile release reports of malware discoveries, we often get accused of “fear mongering.” NQ Mobile’s Security Labs includes over 200 security experts. In addition to discovering and breaking apart new forms of mobile malware, our experts investigate key communication and collaboration channels populated by hackers and malware authors. It’s through these inspections that we spot trends or new malware tricks before they can be pushed out to smartphone users around the world.
It’s in these forums, IRCs and newsgroups where NQ Mobile has discovered a troubling trend. While it likely hasn’t affected you, we’re offering the example as proof that these threats are real. Let me introduce you to the “Carder Kids.”
Young hackers, aged 13-20, are using a combination of mobile malware and social engineering to scrape credit card numbers, PayPal logins and other financial data from mobile devices. This information is then sold to “money mules” whose expertise lies in turning “virtual money” into real money.
NQ Mobile’s “Dark Web” experts have been chatting with these carders on underground forums where they buy and re-sell the bricks necessary for their scams. While they are located all over the world, we find a predominance coming from Russia and Eastern Europe domains in particular. Think Anonymous and you get an idea of the structure – there is none. Most don’t have any links to organized crime. Some even have “real” jobs and are just cloning credit cards for extra cash. In fact, most of these young hackers make very little money from carding.
So how does it work? Generally, “getting carded” starts with malware that will pirate a device’s contact book, notes (where people frequently store account data) and SMS data. This data is then used by hackers to socially engineer SMS and email spear phishing scams. When they collect sensitive financial data, it is frequently placed on the open “dark markets” for bidding and/or purchase by the “carders” who then sell the information to the “money mules.”
Money mules are generally older than the “carder kids,” but they have the skills needed to turn virtual money into real cash. They are most interested in account and CVV data along with full card “dump” files. A dump file contains all the data that is stored on your credit card’s magnetic strip. What might surprise you is that the mules actually transfer their financial rewards into legal bank accounts!
Full credit card information, PayPal logins, etc., are bought and sold in underground markets for anything between $2 and $5 each, usually using e-gold for payment. Most of the credit cards are bought by packs.
Then there is what we call “dumping.” This is when a fraudster steals credit or debit card information to commit financial fraud in a person’s name. In most instances this type of data is physically collected rather than through the Internet and or mobile. The card information, for example, can be skimmed almost anywhere and at any time – some of the more popular skimming locations are shops, restaurants, railway stations, gasoline stations and ATM machines. This card information is then sold on the dark market as “dumps.”
The point of the story is that mobile security isn’t just about protecting you from viruses. Threats don’t only come in the form of malicious applications that one inadvertently “sideloads” onto his or her device. Mobile security is also about making sure your data is protected.
It doesn’t matter whether the economic climate is good or bad, there is always a market for fraud. The marketplace for carding is growing and will continue to grow. And as the engineers behind these types of attacks get smarter and smarter, we can only expect to see them more and more often.
We’re not going to bore you with an effusive discussion about selfless Mothers this week. As much as we love them, mothers are women first so, instead, with all due respect to mom, we want to talk about women’s growing fondness of smartphones.
A recent survey showed women inching up past men in the smartphone-owning category. Chances are your own mom has a smartphone. Whether she’s a young stay-at-home mom, a mid-life professional or a retired grandparent, women love the conveniences afforded by smartphones.
In 2010, a UK survey showed that 63% of men owned smartphone, as opposed to women, whose ownership percentage was then 37%. Now, in 2013, that balance has changed. The same survey now shows women claiming 58% of the smartphone pie, while men follow with 42%.
Clearly, women have jumped onto the cell phone bandwagon in greater numbers as the technology became just too good to resist. Larger screens, super cameras and easy interfaces have made the smartphone a factor in women’s lives more than ever. The advances in kid-tracking apps and practical tools for just about every function of daily life have boosted women’s interest in smartphones considerably, not to mention the plethora of business and learning apps. With the huge workload most moms carry, a smartphone is a welcome addition to the family.
Do your mom a favor this Mother’s Day. If you’re far away, give her a call. If she doesn’t have a smartphone, get her one. While she lounges on the beach, arranges those roses or leisurely works on that five-course gourmet meal you’ve cooked for her, offer to do a little maintenance and checkup on her new phone, or the one she already owns.
While you’re making sure all the updates have been downloaded and her settings are all in good order, go ahead and download a strong mobile security product to keep her phone safe from malware, and to protect her privacy. She protected you for years – maybe it’s your turn. Happy Mother’s Day to the wonderful women in your life.
In honor of Password Day, we decided to revisit our popular blog post from last year about passwords. As relevant today as it was then, this list of hackers’ favorite passwords may surprise you.
25 mobile passwords hackers love
We’ve all read hundreds of password-setting tips. Most of us know the rules and we’re pretty savvy about using clever combinations to safeguard our mobile privacy. However, Splash-Data, a password management company, published a list of the worst passwords ever and, astonishingly, some of them look all too familiar!
The list came from files posted online by hackers listing passwords theyd stolen in 2011. These words are considered easy targets and, while some of them might seem obscure enough, they’re well-known to cyber criminals, and are a breeze to hack.
Introducing, the worst passwords ever
If you’re wondering about qwerty and qazwsx, take a good look at your computer’s keyboard.
We can only guess why certain names come up often enough to be on this list, but just in case you have a family member named Ashley, Bailey or Michael, this is fair warning.
In fact, avoiding every word on this list is a good start toward true mobile protection. Make your passwords long, strange, mixed up with symbols, and meaningful to no one but yourself.
Awareness of mobile security practices is evolving in our communities, but each of us can take individual steps toward our own safety and privacy. Information like this list needs to be shared so we can stop cyber-crime in its tracks.
We at NQ Mobile can’t help you choose a password, but we can protect you from hacking, viruses and all forms of malware. One easy download will go a long distance in protecting your family’s mobile devices as well as your peace of mind. Award-winning NQ Mobile Security is still the best on the market – and it’s free. Visit us today.
Since its launch in September of 2012, our award-winning Family Guardian security app has been honored with its fifth distinguished award.
NQ Family Guardian won the National Parenting Publication’s Seal of Approval this week in the“Gadgets ‘n’ Gear”category. NAPPA’s panel of independent, expert judges and parent testers evaluated hundreds of submissions looking for innovation, safety, quality, and the value they offer to parents.
NQ Family Guardian helps parents keep kids safe
Once Family Guardian is downloaded and installed on a child’s smartphone, its web-based control center is accessible by a parent or guardian from any desktop or mobile browser. The app gives parents a wide range of choices about the latitude they want to allow for their mobile kids, and it’s easily adjusted for changing age and maturity. The app allows parents to decide how much time their child spends on a mobile device, what content the child can view online, and allows parents to monitor their kids’ mobile activities. In addition, kids can press a button for immediate contact should an emergency arise. With its user-friendly interface, parents and children can work together to set “blocks” and “allows.” Family Guardian keeps mobile kids safe, and provides parents with peace of mind.
For more than 20 years, the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) has been the go-to resource for the best products for families. Decisions are made by their team of independent, expert judges, along with family and child testers. Julie Kertes, NAPPA’s General Manager, tells us,
“Parents look to NAPPA for the best products available for their families, and for that reason, we don’t take the task of vetting each submission lightly. NQ Family Guardian provides peace of mind for parents as they teach their children phone responsibility and safety, and through our judging process, we are proud to announce it as a superior, reliable and innovative product worthy of the NAPPA seal of approval.”
We can’t ask for much higher praise than that.
A consistent award-winner
We’re proud that NQ Family Guardian continues to receive awards that acknowledge its unique and outstanding features. In addition to this week’s NAPPA honors, Family Guardian has earned:
Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) seal of approval.
Top 25 app at the CES Mobile Apps Showdown
Semi-finalist in the 2013 Edison Awards
Finalist in the “Mobile Apps- Productivity, Utility & Public Safety” category of CTIA’s annual Emerging
Technology (E-Tech) Awards competition. (Winners to be announced May 22, 2013)
NQ Family Guardian is available for download on Google Play and at select wireless retail dealers nationwide. For a complete list of all 2013 NAPPA Parenting Resources winners and more information about the competition, visit www.NAPPAawards.com.
In some parts of the world it’s Privacy Awareness Week. Initiated in Australia, it’s a time when people stop to take a more careful look into privacy issues, especially those involving digital communications.
Privacy Awareness Week’s a good reminder for all of us to consider how much of our privacy’s been absconded by the digital age, and decide whether we can live with it or not. An article in the New York Times last week describes a woman who was identified by advertisers as an MS patient, simply because the year before she had done some online research on MS and various other diseases. Now, labeled as an MS patient, the woman wonders whether this could affect her ability to qualify for health insurance at some point in the future, in addition to other unknown scenarios. Is this a valid concern? It certainly is!
Is it too late?
The woman who was targeted as an MS patient is all too familiar. How many times have you looked up something online and been bombarded with advertising about that specific thing, or even related topics? It happens constantly, every single day. Even writing an email to your mom about your dog results in Google showing you ads for flea medicine and doggie jackets. Have you ever done an Internet search on your own name? It may be surprising what the world’s been allowed to know about you.
In the big picture, it’s probably too late to go backward. We can’t return to the good old days when what we viewed or shared online was our own business. But there are a few things we can do to improve our personal privacy status when it comes to our mobile devices. We’ve shared them before, and share them again in honor of Privacy Awareness Week.
Passwords: Passwords should be based on something obscure, like the initials of a favorite quote or personal mantra. Incorporate at least one special character, at least one number, and don’t use the name of your pets, kids, street name, company name or any other easy-to-guess word associated with you. Make sure to change your password frequently.
Updates: Download security updates when you’re prompted. Keep your phone current.
Phone lock: Keep the phone on a short leash with an auto-lock that will kick in after just a few minutes. If you leave your table to get a coffee, it won’t be vulnerable to prying eyes.
Social Networking: Don’t overshare – be careful not to post addresses, phone numbers or information about vacations, family or other tips for potential identity thieves, stalkers or bullies. Checking-in may be fun for your friends, but it also tells stalkers and other predators where you are. Forego it, if you can.
System: Keep your phone clean by deleting any data that doesn’t need to be there.
Notices: If you receive an urgent message from a bank or financial institution, do not click on it or provide any of the requested information. These flash messages often want you to think your account’s in jeopardy and that you need to re-enter your private data. It isn’t, you don’t – and you shouldn’t.
Permissions: Learn to read permission agreements, end-user license agreements and terms of service agreements to make sure you’re not giving away private data when downloading new apps. And while you’re at it, teach your kids what to look for.
Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi hotspots are often an easy target for cybercriminals. Make sure you’re working within a secured network. Hotels, coffee shops and malls are often the worst places to go online. Merchants don’t always provide super-tight WiFi security because they don’t want to require passwords, and they want to accommodate every kind of device. Besides, a good cyber-criminal knows how to break most Wi-Fi systems.
Security: Always use a strong mobile security product to keep out the viruses, malware and fraudulent demons that tend to slip into your phone’s system when you do a lot of web surfing.
When you dispose of a phone, be sure it’s wiped clean of all data.
Share your thoughts and ideas about privacy here on our blog, or talk to us on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.
NQ Mobile’s proud to announce that our popular app, Family Guardian, was chosen asEmerging Technology (E-Tech) Awards competition. CTIA–The Wireless Association® is an international organization representing the wireless communications industry.
Why are we excited?
Each year, CTIA E-Tech Awards honors the most innovative new wireless products and services in mobile apps and consumer electronics. The winners will be announced in May at CTIA 2013™ in Las Vegas. Nearly 300 entries were judged by a panel of highly respected industry experts, reporters and analysts. Submissions were scored on innovation, functionality, technological importance, implementation and overall “wow” factor. Family Guardian, in our opinion, reflects all of these qualities, and more.
What’s great about Family Guardian?
Family Guardian also earned the Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) seal of approval in March. Why is it getting so much attention? It’s a product that allows mobile parents and children to be connected. With so many kids owning mobile devices, Family Guardian gives parents the security and comfort of being able to transparently manage and monitor their children’s mobile activities. Parents are able to rest assured that their kids are having a safe and positive mobile experience.
Between now and May 20, CTIA’s website visitors may vote for the “Best Online Pick” at www.ctiashow.com/awards. Those attending CTIA 2013 will be voting onsite, via text message, for Best in Show.
It’s a win-win
We appreciate the high praise Family Guardian receives from professionals, parents and mobile users around the globe. It’s our way of offering peace and safety to families in a mobile world that can be confusing and sometimes risky.
Do your kids own a mobile phone? Are you perfectly comfortable about what they’re seeing, to whom they’re talking and how much time they’re spending on the phone? Share your stories with us on our blog or join the conversation on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you.
Earth Day brings up reminders of healthy living and responsible habits. Reducing our carbon footprint and conserving energy are practices of every good Earth citizen. As mobile device owners, we need to be aware that earth-friendly habits are important, not only for us to remember, but to teach our kids. Here are some reminders:
Don’t leave your mobile chargers plugged in. They sap power needlessly.
Dialaphone suggests we replace our old devices only when absolutely necessary, rather than purchasing a new one every time a new model arrives. The average American phone is replaced every 22 months!
Some mobile companies employ green practices, and there are manufacturers working on producing green mobile phones. Take a moment to find them before deciding on a new mobile purchase.
Support the idea of solar powered chargers. Currently marketed for use in the field, they could be incorporated into household use for better energy management.
Check your mobile phone settings to be sure you’re using the least amount of power possible.
Donate your used mobile phone to charity to an organization that refurbishes phones for those in the military.
Choose mobile apps that don’t sap your device’s energy resources.
Perhaps most importantly, RECYCLE. Find your local electronics recycling station and dispose of your devices efficiently and safely. If you can’t bear to let go of your valuable phone, find an ecoATM kiosk and get a few bucks for it. Don’t contribute to your local landfill by throwing devices in the garbage. If you doubt the damage electronic devices can wreak in a landfill, check out this article by Wirefly that explains the chemicals released and their effect on our water.
Every small effort helps toward keeping our planet clean and safe for future generations. Join us at NQ Mobile as we celebrate the earth today, and make a commitment to be responsible mobile citizens for life.