In 2017, a malware attack dubbed “The Joker” was found hiding in dozens of apps in the Google Play store, affecting thousands of Android users who unknowingly downloaded and installed the virus onto their devices. The virus then copied personal account and banking information. It secretly used that data to sign users up for other, more expensive apps, draining bank accounts without the users knowing about it until it was too late. Flash forward to 2020, and the malicious software has once again been caught hiding in free apps. 

What Is Malware?

Malware is a type of malicious software that can include viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other unwanted software. The goal is to capture your sensitive information and use it to make money or hold it ransom until you pay the scammer money. Malware is also used to mine personal information to steal identities or sell to other cybercriminals who steal identities. 

How to Avoid Downloading “The Joker” and Other Malware

“The Joker” virus may be the malware currently in the headlines, but it’s not the only malware hiding in mobile apps, nor will it be the last. While most software in the app stores is legitimate and safe, there are plenty of predatory apps waiting for unsuspecting customers to download them. So how can you avoid the bad ones and keep your device safe? Here are a few tips to help prevent malware on your mobile device and keep your bank and your device safe. 

how to prevent malware

Be Wary of Unsolicited Texts or Emails

One way that cybercriminals convince users to download their infected software is through unsolicited text or emails. If you receive an unexpected message from your bank, the government, or other institution that requires you to click on a link to update your private information, it’s likely a scam. These messages might also tell you that you must download a specific app or program to receive a service. What you won’t know is that the particular app contains hidden malware.

The safest solution is to call your bank or the organization that sent you the message to verify whether the request is authentic. And always look up the phone number on your own—don’t use the contact details provided in the email or text. Those are more likely to be fake. 

Read App Reviews

The number and quality of reviews for an app can help you make safer choices when downloading secure apps to prevent malware infested downloads. In general, the more reviews and the higher average rating an app has, the more legitimate it should be. However, this is not always a guarantee. Several of the apps infected by “The Joker” were downloaded thousands of times each. If an app is free, sounds obscure, and has limited reviews, you might opt for a paid app or one with more reviews instead. 

Monitor Your Bank Statements

One efficient way to monitor whether your information has been hacked or not is to keep a close eye on your bank accounts and credit cards. If you see unusual charges that you did not make, report them immediately. Many of the “The Joker” virus victims back in 2017 didn’t notice the strange charges because they were small amounts of money each time. The banks did not flag the activity as suspicious because the amounts were low, and the apps were purchased on the victim’s account.

If you suspect that your computer or device has been infected with malware, we recommend you stop accessing your bank and other private accounts on that device until it has been removed. Call your bank or visit a branch to take action instead. 

Install Security Software 

Virus protection software is not just for laptops and desktop computers anymore. It’s helpful to install security software on all the devices you use to access the internet. While the companies that run the app stores do their best to detect scams and fake apps, they can’t catch them all. It’s up to you to ensure that your device is protected as best as you can. Or better yet, if you run a business, you can hire a professional cybersecurity firm to help protect your data and make safe choices when it comes to software, apps, and other programs. 

Cybersecurity Management in Edmonton

IT experts can help you and your team stay protected from malware so your business can operate without interruptions or breaches. Contact Alt-Tech Inc. to see how we can help keep your business safe online.