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Mitigating issues from a malware attack on your mobile device

Friday, October 13, 2017

The statistics bear out what most people suspect: Malware infections on mobile devices are at an all-time high.

Nobody is immune, not even Levi Arnold, a computer specialist with Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, who experienced a malware attack on his cell phone a couple months back.

“While at home, I scrolled through Facebook and noticed a link to an article about an accident that had taken place in my home city,” he said. “The article piqued my curiosity so I clicked the link and instantly regretted my decision. The link opened a website that had been hacked.”

Multiple popups displayed on Arnold’s screen stating his phone had a virus, and then his phone started vibrating and buzzing like a veritable swarm of bees. After a few seconds of what Arnold called “utter shock,” he took the following steps to ensure the device was safe and his accounts had not been hacked.

“First, I closed the Facebook app without selecting any icon on the screen or attempting to close out the page,” Arnold said. “I returned to the home screen by pressing the home button. Then, I pressed the button to open recent apps and closed all open applications.”

Both Android and Apple devices have this ability. Using Lookout, a mobile security app, he ran a full security scan on his phone. Thankfully, Lookout found that his phone was not infected.

Second, Arnold needed to ensure his password had not been stolen. On his computer he logged into Facebook and changed his password.

“From within Facebook, I could force a log out on all devices currently connected to Facebook,” Arnold said. “I reviewed recent posts to my account. Every post was mine and there was no suspicious activity. As a precaution I uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone then reinstalled it to be sure there were no remnants of malware left on my device.”

For several subsequent days, Arnold kept a close eye on the accounts he currently had connected from his phone to ensure they had not been compromised.

“Thankfully, my phone was not infected but it was a frightening experience that emphasized the importance of mobile security,” he said. “When – and it is probably when and not if these days – a similar experience happens to you, it is important you have a plan to lessen its impact.”

Arnold contends the single most important thing a person can do to protect his or her mobile device, not to mention the apps that affect one’s personal identity, is install an anti-malware security program.

“Avast and McAfee are great security programs available for both iOS and Android phones,” he said. “Another good tip is to only save login information for accounts that contain non-critical information.”

In addition, it is best to be cautious with links on social media sites, when downloading new apps and with any pop-ups on your mobile device.

“Had I been more cautious, I would not have followed the link in Facebook and saved myself a lot of anxiety,” Arnold said.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

DASNR is comprised of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies: the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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