Emerging Threats

Do tablets and smartphones need security software?

Written by a NortonLifeLock employee


Everything’s connected. A smartphone can share a password with a tablet “over the air,” while cloud services make sure that documents and data sync across all of a user’s devices.

This always-on connectivity is why it’s essential to protect each device equally, because if any of them are hacked, the same thing may be at stake — your personal information.

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Malware can infect mobile devices in a variety of ways such as through an app, phishing email, or SMS text message.

Think about all the personal information you access across all of your devices. It’s available through your email, social media, financial accounts, and all the apps you use. Access to your email alone may give a thief enough of your personal data to steal your identity.

You probably know you need internet security software for your computer. Having it on your smartphone and tablet may be a new concept for you. Don’t shrug it off.

Why do smartphones and tablets need protection?

Hackers can try to access information on your computer through malicious software, or malware, but most people realize the importance of having computer security software. What may be less obvious, however, is that malware can also infect smartphones and tablets, since they are essentially mini computers, running “mobile operating systems.” Therefore, they can be susceptible to the same types of threats and vulnerabilities as computer operating systems.

Once a cybercriminal gains access to your device, the malware can then steal your data or even hold it hostage.

How do smartphones and tablets get infected with malware?

There are two common ways that mobile devices get infected by malware:

1. Third-party app stores. These can pose a threat to smartphone and tablet users if they do not thoroughly vet the apps they carry. Legitimate app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play are the safest sources for apps, as these companies have security measures in place to help keep malware-infested apps out.

Third-party app stores though, can be a free-for-all. These stores are usually unregulated, and will often offer a free version of a paid app, tricking users into thinking they’re getting a deal on the real thing. In reality, the user may actually end up with a malware-laden app designed to steal as much data as possible.

2. Drive-by downloads. This term refers to any malware installed on your device without consent. If you visit the wrong website or open the wrong email, you might be exposed to a drive-by download that automatically installs a malicious file on your mobile device. The file could be anything from adware or spyware to something far more nefarious, like a bot, which can use your phone to perform malicious tasks.

5 tips to help protect your smartphones and tablets

  1. Install and use security software. Any device that connects to the internet should have security software. A good security suite will have a multitude of features that can help protect your devices and your data from online risks you may not be aware of. If you’re in the market, consider Norton Security Premium*, an award-winning** security offering that provides real-time protection against existing and emerging malware, and works on mobile devices.
  2. Always install software updates. No matter what the device, don’t delay when it comes to updating your software. These updates often help to patch the latest security holes and software vulnerabilities. Oftentimes, when there is a software update, it can add to or enhance security settings and reset your current settings. As a result, you’ll also want to review your security settings on each device and make adjustments as needed.
  3. Be aware of the apps you install. Use discretion when installing apps. Only source them from legitimate app stores, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, and read app reviews and privacy policies before installing.
  4. Lock your device. Lock-screen security is the first line of defense against having your information accessed by anybody who has your device. In the event of loss or theft, you’ll rest easier knowing that all your information isn’t suddenly public.
  5. Watch out for smishing. It’s not just emails you have to watch out for these days. SMS phishing scams are another concern. Whether an email or a text, trust your instincts. If a message seems suspicious, treat it that way. Better to be safe than to put your device — and your information — at risk.

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Disclaimers and references:

*Norton Security covers PCs, Macs, Androids, iPads and iPhones. Not all features are available on all platforms.

**Norton Performance: For more detailed information about Norton product performance tests, please see:
AV-TEST, “Best Protection 2017 Award”, March 2018
AV-TEST, “Product Review and Certification Report,” September-October 2017
PassMark Software, “Consumer Security Products Performance Benchmarks (Edition 1),” November 2017

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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