Featured Article – Medical Apps For Smart Devices

The global pandemic and news about tracking apps have put health and technology in the spotlight.  With this in mind, here are some examples of medical apps for smart devices and smart health products that involve a link between smart wearables, apps, and other smart products.

Just A Look, Not An Endorsement

Before we delve into the world of health-tech, we would like to stress that we have no connection to (and are not endorsing or selling) any of the brands or products mentioned in this article and that other brands and products to those mentioned are available.  The intention is simply to take a brief look at a range of product types that are currently available.

Samsung’s Smart Watch For Blood Pressure

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd (South Korea) has just announced the launch of its Samsung Health Monitor app to be used with Galaxy Watch Active2.

The smart app delivers a visual display of the wearer’s blood pressure to the watch and gives instructions if the readings present a potential danger.  Once the app is linked to the watch, and the app is calibrated every four weeks, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 wearer simply needs to tap their watch to measure their blood pressure.  The measurement results can be synced to the app on the user’s Galaxy phone and the results that have been tracked over days, weeks or months can also be shared with the user’s doctor as part of a medical review or consultation.

Heart Monitor

Samsung says that Electrocardiogram (ECG) tracking will also be supported on the Samsung Health Monitor app in South Korea within the third quarter of this year.

Other, EKG/ECG smart products and their associated apps are already available e.g. the mobile EKG monitor from AliveCor which links to a dedicated app to deliver and electrocardiogram (ECG) to a smartphone in around 30 seconds.

Fitness Watch

Many of us are already familiar with (or may have) a Fitbit or similar wearable health and fitness device.

The French ScanWatch, for example, is an advanced health/fitness watch that, for example, tracks heartbeat irregularities, and blood oxygen saturation during sleep, and connects to a smartphone (Android) app via Bluetooth.

Apple’s fitness tracking watch can also measure vital signs.

Sleep

Apple, for example, makes a number of other smart health tech gadgets that link to smartphone apps, such as the Beddit Sleep Monitor.  This system uses a slim, flat bracelet that feeds data about the wearer’s sleep to a smartphone app to help the user to improve the quality of their sleep.

Temperature Monitoring

With a high temperature (or limited high-temperature spikes) being a well-known symptom of COVID-19 for example, products such as the Withings Thermo thermometer, which gives the user an accurate temperature reading while automatically syncing with the app on the user’s iPhone or iPad, may be of particular interest to many people at this time. 

Blood Glucose Level Monitoring

For those who need to keep a close eye on their blood glucose levels, there are now some smart products on the market that can help achieve this.  One example is the iHealth Lab Inc Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System, which comes with a glucometer, lancets and a lancing device, and it connects to an App which displays and records the results and keeps a history of all blood glucose measurements.

Brain Activity Monitor To Help Reduce Stress

Smart brain activity monitoring systems are also now available.  These use a headband device that communicates (via Bluetooth) with an app on the user’s smartphone or tablet.  The purpose of these apps, such as ‘Muse’, is to be able to help users to lower their stress levels, increase their resilience and improve their engagement/attention.

Breathing

One of the few real benefits of the global pandemic has been an improvement in air quality, due to the dramatic reduction in vehicle and industrial pollution. There are, however, smart products linked to apps that can help give alerts about air quality to those suffering from asthma or allergies.  One example is Atmotube Pro which uses sensors and a free mobile app to keep the user informed about any air quality threats and the presence of harmful gases.  Other examples include the Index BreezoMeter pollen and weather app.

Fertility Tracking

For those hoping to start a family, fertility tracking wearable and app combinations can help. Examples include the Ovia Fertility Tracker and Ava’s fertility tracking system.  These device/app combinations use a wearable bracelet to take the measurements e.g. temperature, pulse rate, breathing rate, and sleeping patterns to produce results that are displayed in graphics on a smartphone app so that a woman is able to more accurately judge when she is likely to be most fertile.

Track and Trace Apps

Perhaps the most important health app at the current time for many would be a track and trace app.  Unfortunately, the much-anticipated app that was being trialled in the Isle of Wight has now been ditched.  The hope is, with human track and tracing operating in the meantime, that an app based on Apple and Google’s technology will be available in the UK in the near future.

Looking Forward – Opportunities

Wearables linked to phone apps are a growth area that is providing many opportunities for businesses with health and fitness products that can be given significant added value thanks to a smart element and a good app.  The scope for businesses focusing on the health and fitness sector is huge although big tech names which already have integration of products and strong, recognisable, and trusted brands e.g. Apple or Samsung are in a particularly strong position.

Even though manufacturers of smart wearable technology are offering something of real value to consumers who are now, perhaps, more conscious than ever about health matters, they should not forget that security and privacy of the data stored and transmitted about the user should always be a priority, and it is in the interest of the manufacturer and the customer that correct safeguards are taken.

Custom Backgrounds and Live Captions in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s latest move in the battle between video conferencing and collaborative working online platforms is to add custom background effects and enable live captions.

New Features

Following on from its original announcement in April about the introduction of pre-selected backgrounds or a blur effect (introduced last year)  in video calls on the platform, Microsoft Teams has now announced the roll-out of new custom background effects in Teams, along with new features in the free version of Teams. 

Backgrounds

The new background feature enables users to customise their background by uploading their own images or choosing one of the collections of backgrounds available online. The stated idea behind the change is that it offers an easy and fast way for users to get creative and to express themselves in meetings.  Commercially, it looks likely to be another way to help Teams to compete against the likes of Zoom, which has grown its user base exponentially during the lockdown.

Collection

The types of backgrounds that Microsoft says its Teams users now have access to include The Simpsons living room, a mountain of LEGO building blocks, a collection from Fox (the Masked Singer, Family Guy, Duncansville and more), an Xbox theme, a blue or green Microsoft Solitaire background and event-specific collections such as 20 virtual backgrounds for users to show their support for the LGBTQI+ community.

New Features For The Free Version of Teams

With Zoom announcing end-to-end-encryption for its free version, Microsoft now has its own new, competitive features for the free version of Teams. These include being able to schedule meetings and send out invitations in advance, and to turn on live captions during calls and meetings to make them more inclusive.

Other features that users of the free version of Teams (up to 500,000 users) get include unlimited chat and search, audio and video calling, 10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file storage per person, the ability to use the Office web apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) and unlimited app integration.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is another move by Microsoft in the battle to gain and retain users of its collaborative working platform and to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ in terms of maximising the surge in demand created by the pandemic and directed by Microsoft’s advertising campaigns.  Announcing the roll-out of these new features and the enhancements to the free version of Teams will help Microsoft to compete against challengers Zoom and Slack, and will add value for users and give them more reasons to stay loyal to Teams.

Voice and Contactless Technologies For a Safer Workplace

With businesses looking to ensure COVID-safe working conditions, the use of voice and contactless interfaces could help provide safer ways of carrying out daily work tasks.

Report

A recent report by 451 Research states that technology generally will play a crucial role for businesses continuity post-lockdown and that in the past 2 years (in the U.S.) there has been increased interest in the use of voice interfaces in the workplace, with voice-activated interfaces and digital assistants being among the top disruptive technologies that organisations were looking to adopt.  The report also highlights how, in the past year there has been a growing number of speech-enabled devices designed specifically for the workplace, such as desk phones, meeting room equipment and hearable devices.  Also, voice-enabled intelligent assistants have been integrated with meeting room equipment and team collaboration workflows.

Conclusions

Now, in the post-COVID-19 business environment, the report concludes that:

– These technologies and integrations could become particularly valuable in making the workplace safer and more contactless and help to retain the necessary physical distancing for those who are required to return.

– The need to provide a safe workplace will see organisations accelerating digital transformation initiatives, driving adoption of voice interfaces, biometrics, and real-time communications.

– Voice user interfaces, real-time communications and location management services will be used to help support frontline workers as well as helping organisations to further automate their operations.

Examples

Some of the examples cited in the report of those who currently use voice technology and who could benefit from using more of it include frontline workers such as nurses and doctors, first responders, factory workers, grocery store employees, drivers, and food and grocery and delivery gig workers.

It should be remembered that the report is U.S. based, where integrations of voice-enabled intelligent assistants with meeting room equipment and team collaboration workflows deployed in the workplace began around three years ago, and where intelligent assistants e.g. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri are ubiquitous for the average consumer. Also, in the U.S, Amazon has been active in expanding its Alexa for Business that uses voice commands for e.g. managing meetings and controlling conference room devices.

Challenges

Some of the challenges that businesses in the UK face in addition to the market conditions and making the office/workplace physically safe on a daily basis are how they offer good service levels with many staff still not back at the office and how they can quickly and affordably take advantage of the benefits of technology to make things work and remain competitive.

Change

With social distancing looking as though it will need to be in place for many months to come, yet with many returning to workplaces in the UK after becoming used to working remotely (facilitated by technology), there is now an expectation that (and a necessity for) workplaces to change in order to maximise safety for the users of all work buildings.

Ways that businesses in the UK could operate safely, embrace technology, and move forward could include:

– Making more use of Alexa for Business, Microsoft’s Cortana, biometrics, and chatbots with AI for speech recognition.

– Workers continuing to make use of as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom, and using simple chatbots and other speech-based technologies e.g. voice-to-text transcription.

– Making even greater use of the Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Just as governments have to balance public health with the economy, most businesses will need key people to return to their premises and will already be at least in the process of physically creating an environment, working routines and policies that ensure maximum safety within available guidelines.

The realisation by many managers and their employees that technology can successfully be quickly mastered and used to keep critical parts of the business going during lockdown looks likely to contribute to serious consideration being given to the use of more technologies such as voice and contactless technologies going forward.

COVID Alerts From Google Maps

Google Maps is now issuing COVID-19 related alerts to those looking for public transport directions in cities, looking for medical facilities and testing centres, and for those crossing borders.

New Alerts

Google has announced on its blog that it is augmenting its Google Maps information with alerts relating to COVID-19 restrictions, requirements and advice depending on the subject of the search.  The new features in the latest release of Google Maps on Android and iOS include:

 – Alerts from local transit agencies e.g. if persons are required to wear a mask on public transportation in the area that they are searching for information about.  These alerts are being rolled out by Google in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

– Driving alerts about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along routes e.g. when crossing national borders in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

– Alerts reminding Google Maps users searching for medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centres about eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system.

Existing Alerts and Insights

These alerts are in addition to those features already introduced last year, such as crowdedness predictions for public transit stations in Google Maps, and insights introduced in February, such as temperature, accessibility, onboard security, and insights concerning designated women’s sections in regions where transit systems have them.

How Busy?

Google has also announced that those searching for transit stations on Maps will be able to see information about the times when that transit station is historically more or less busy, thereby enabling them to plan trips accordingly.  Also, Google Maps users can now see live data showing how busy a particular transit station is right now compared to its usual level of activity.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Travel, whether it be to or from re-opening workplaces or business trips now involves the need to avoid crowded places and to be aware of the different rules to apply as regards the wearing of masks or any travel restrictions in certain areas.  The introduction of these new features and insights to Google Maps is not only helpful to users in the current situation but will also help Google ensure that its services remain relevant and are used as people are spending more time on and relying more on other COVID-19 tracing and alert apps in different countries around the world.

Beware Fake Contact Tracer Messages

Just as you thought that cybercriminals had exploited every aspect of the pandemic with phishing, vishing, smishing and more, there are now warnings to beware of fake contact tracer messages.

Contact Tracing in the UK

Here in the UK, NHS contact tracers are now contacting those persons who are believed to have been in close contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19.  The system works by those who test positive filling in a form (while they are well enough to do so) detailing where they have been plus when and who they have been in contact with.  From there, the NHS tracer contacts those who are believed to have been in close contact (via phone or text) and asks them to self-isolate for 14 days, the period by which symptoms of an infected person should have shown. Close contact is defined as face-to-face contact/close proximity for more than 15 minutes. 

This contact tracing service has been put into place before the app, which is designed to automatically do the same thing but has not been released yet.

Scam Messages

The type of scam messages that have already been observed by many people was highlighted by Stuart Fuller, Chairman of Lewes Football Club.  On his Twitter page, Mr Fuller shared a screenshot of a text message from the fraudsters and warned that such messages are not genuine and that clicking on the link in the message would lead to a phishing page.

The screenshot showed a text message which had a recommendation for the recipient to self-isolate because they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for or showed symptoms of COVID-19.  The message included a link to follow for the recipient to get more information.

How?

On his blog, ethical hacker Jake Davis highlights how the problem with the UK government using SMS during COVID-19 is that people are more vulnerable than ever to fake information and SMS messages can easily be made to look as though they come from the government.  In a blog post, Mr Davis says that making an SMS message appear to come from the government is as simple as inserting “UK_Gov” instead of some digits as the sender.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This and other similar types of smishing and phishing attacks are predicted to increase this year, and their success and prevalence is a sign of how vulnerable the COVID-19 outbreak it makes people feel, and how their search for and emotional reactions to information about health and financial matters are playing into the hands of criminals who are happy to exploit anyone.  Companies and organisations need to educate their staff about the threat, while businesses and individuals need to be vigilant and cautious about any unusual SMS messages or unsolicited phone calls, particularly those that offer rewards, create panic, warn of unpleasant consequences, or apply a feeling of pressure to act. Bear in mind that it is relatively easy to fake the source of a text message and although receiving such a message may at first be a shock, it is worth checking that the supposed government/NHS SMS is genuine before thinking about clicking on any links.

Google Store Takes Down App That Removes Chinese Software

Google has removed an app from its Play Store that was designed to help users to detect and delete apps that were made in China.

More Than 1 Million Downloads

The Remove China Apps, which is reported to have been downloaded by more than a million people on its first day has now been removed from Google’s Play Store following complaints from Chinese app makers that the app was clearly a form of market disruption.

The App

The app, which was developed by the Indian company One Touch AppLabs, was designed to help identify and remove any apps of Chinese origin from the user’s phone.  This included identifying extremely popular apps such as TikTok (owned by a Beijing-based company) and Zoom, whose founder was born in China.

If a user chose to delete all the apps that had been identified as being linked to China by Remove China Apps, the user would receive a message on their phone that is reported to have said “Congratulations. You are awesome. No China app found in your system.”

The app was not as successful, however, in being able to identify apps that had been pre-installed on Chinese-made smartphones.

Irony

Despite millions of downloads by Indian people hoping to rid themselves of Chinese apps, most smartphones in India were made in China. Also, some tech commentators have suggested that it may be difficult for Indian developers to make good equivalent apps and that a freeze on investment in India by countries like China (announced in April) could actually hit funding opportunities for Indian start-ups.

Why?

Remove China Apps, which was developed by an Indian company and has the vast majority of its downloads in India appears to have been released in response to tensions between China and India after Chinese troops were reported to have moved into the disputed Kashmir region.  Also, many people in India blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown they have been forced to live under since March.

What Did Google Say?

For Google, it appears to have simply been a matter of removing an app that potentially breached guidelines.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, there is a great deal of anti-Chinese feeling in India at the moment but it’s quite surprising anyway that an app that looks likely to have had a serious effect on competition and access to a large app market for companies simply because of their geographical base and/or origins was able to make it into Google’s Store in the first place.  Google itself is now facing criticism from some Indians for removing the app and, therefore, appearing to some to support China in the argument.  There is currently still a stand-off between the troops of both countries and the argument has also highlighted how many tech products and services used in India come from China, and how popular they are.  This is something that was also discovered by the US government in recent arguments relating to Huawei products. Global tech companies are now often finding themselves involved in global arguments.

New Tool Allows You To Bulk-Delete/Hide Old Facebook Posts

Facebook has announced the introduction of the ‘Manage Activity’ tool that allows users to archive or bulk-delete old Facebook posts based on a variety of filters.

Change

With most people being able to register with and become a user of Facebook over the last 14 years it is likely that over time, users posts on their timelines reflect changes in the views, attitudes, appearance, relationships and more. Also, with employers and many others that users make contact with checking Facebook profiles, or where there have, for example, been changes in relationships that users may wish to hide details off, Facebook has developed a tool to bulk delete user posts so that users can “more accurately reflect who you are today”.

Archive or Delete

The ‘Manage Activity’ tool gives users the option of moving large numbers of their old posts into an archive or sending them to trash so they can be deleted after 30 days.

Filters

Selecting which old posts to hide in the archive or delete can be achieved using different filter options such as the date of posts, or who features in the posts (useful if relationships have changed).

Old Photos

The tool can be used to hide or delete batches of old photos too by going to ‘Activity Log’ and the ‘Manage Posts’ button. Those who have already experimented with the new feature recommend switching to a grid view as it is easier to scan through old photos and select them.

Employers

When you consider that a 2018 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 70 per cent of employers use social media to screen candidates in the hiring process and that 43 per cent of employers use social media to check on current employees, it is easy to see some of the value of being able to at least hide or perhaps remove lots of old posts and photos.

Clear History Tool

In January, and after a gradual roll-out, and as part of its ‘Off-Facebook activity’, Facebook announced that its Clear History tool was available to all users in all countries. The tool was designed to help users to have more control over the protection of their data by allowing them to disconnect their web browsing data from their Facebook account.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Giving Facebook users more control over their data with tools like ‘Manage Activity’ and ‘Clear History’ is another way that Facebook can get back some of the trust that it lost with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, provide users with some extra value, and compete with other social media platforms. For employers who want to take a peek at potential job candidates, this means that they are now likely to get less of a real view of people of interest through this route although it remains to be seen how many Facebook users take advantage of the features of the new tool.

Data privacy and security and having control over personal data is something of great importance now to web users and this has been reflected in legislation (GDPR) and in new features and tools that many of the social media companies are adding to their platforms.

Tech Tip – Stop Background Apps

If you have apps running in the background on Windows 10, they can use up more of your battery power and data.  Here’s an easy way to stop background apps from running:

Go to: Settings > Privacy > Background apps.

To stop all from running, toggle ‘Let apps run in the background’ to ‘Off’.

You also have the option of choosing which apps to run in the background by going down the list individually.

NHS Immunity “Passport” App

Andrew Bud, chief executive of iProov, the company behind the NHS app, has floated the idea of using facial recognition for Covid-19 “immunity passports”.

App

The iProov-made NHS app system, for Android and iOS, not to be confused with the in-development COVID-19 app, is a system for use in England that allows users to access a range of NHS services via smartphone or tablet.

The app can currently be used to get advice about coronavirus, order repeat prescriptions, book appointments, check symptoms (against NHS information), view the user’s medical records, register a user’s organ donation decision, and to find out how the NHS uses a user’s data.

Facial Recognition

Users of the app have to submit a photo of themselves from an official document such as their passport or driving license which the app system uses as the basis for facial recognition to enable a user to verify their identity and access NHS services via the app.

Each time the user logs in using facial recognition, the system scans a person’s face using their phone/tablet camera which involves the user seeing a short sequence of flashing colours.

The Basis of an Immunity Passport

In support of a suggestion made previously by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Andrew Bud, chief executive iProov has suggested that the trusted identity system of the NHS app could provide the basis for an “immunity passport”.

Immunity Passports

According to the Lancet, an immunity passport is a “digital or physical document that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2” (the disease associated with the 2019 COVId-19 virus).  The idea of an immunity passport is something that has been considered by governments including Chile, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA.  An immunity passport could be used to exempt individuals from physical restrictions and could enable them to return to work, school, and daily life.

Issues

While an immunity passport is an option, some of the issues with this idea are that:

– There is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection (as stated by the WHO, April 24).

– A false-positive and an immune status could make that passport holder change their behaviour, despite still being susceptible to infection and able to infect others.

– Artificial restrictions in society could result for those who don’t have an immunity passport, and this could lead to discrimination, inequality, corruption, bias and even to extra costs for those in countries that don’t have access to (free) health care at the point of delivery.

– Immunity passports for some could restrict travel and civil liberties and could even incentivise people to become infected in order to get the benefits that such a passport could bring.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

All businesses want to provide a safe environment for their staff, their customers, and other stakeholders as we move out of lockdown restrictions where economies still must function in an environment where COVID-19 is still a serious threat.  Whereas an immunity passport sounds as though it could indicate that a person is less of a risk e.g. when accessing services, not enough is known about whether a person can contract the virus more than once, thereby limiting the effectiveness and validity of the system.  Also, it depends upon how rigidly and widely such a system is used as to its effectiveness, and there are clearly many other issues based around discrimination to consider.

Facial recognition on an app however does sound like it could form a trusted base for a system that requires accurate verification.

Featured Article – Does Your Phone Have A Virus?

Phones are essentially powerful mobile computers that contain vast amounts of valuable personal information. This article looks at how to tell if your phone has a virus, what to do if you think it has, and how to protect your phone.

Virus or Malware

Both a virus and malware are malicious programs, but in security terms, a virus is a type of malware that copies itself onto your device and malware, the general terms for malicious software, is a type of threat.

Types of Mobile Malware

There are many different types of malware that can infect mobile phones, including:

– Banking malware, many of which are Trojans designed to infiltrate devices and collect bank login and passwords.

– Spyware, used to steal a variety of personal data.

– Ransomware, which locks the phone until the user pays a ransom.

– Mobile Adware, whereby “malvertising” code can infect a device, forcing it to download specific adware types which can then allow attackers to steal personal data.

– Crypto-mining apps, which use the victim’s device to mine crypto-currency. For example, in February 2019, security researchers at Symantec claimed to have discovered 8 crypto-mining apps in the Microsoft Store.

– MMS Malware, whereby attackers can send a text message embedded with malware to any mobile number.

– SMS Trojans, which can send SMS messages to premium-rate numbers across the world thereby landing the user with an exceptionally large phone bill.

Android Vulnerable To Malware From Malicious Apps

Android phones are known to be vulnerable to malicious software that usually arrives via a malicious app that the user has downloaded, sometimes via the Google Play Store or an app from a third-party app shop.  A recent Nokia Threat Intelligence report showed that Android devices are nearly fifty times more likely to be infected by malware than Apple devices.

For example, back in September 2019, Security researcher Aleksejs Kuprins of CSIS cybersecurity services company discovered 24 apps which had been available for download in the Google Play Store that contained spy and premium subscription bot ‘Joker’ malware.  Also, in January 2019, security researchers discovered 36 fake and malicious apps for Android that could harvest data and track a victim’s location, masquerading as security tools in the trusted Google Play Store.

Android phones are also vulnerable to malware and viruses if users download message attachments from an email or SMS, download to the phone from the internet, or connect the phone to another device.

Why?

Reasons why Google’s open-source Android is vulnerable to malware include:

– The complicated processes involved in the issuing of security updates means that important software security updates often get delayed.  This is because unlike Apple iPhones, there are thousands of different Android devices made by hundreds of different manufacturers, each with a range of hardware quality and capabilities. 

– The open-source nature of Android, which is also one of its strengths in terms of scope and flexibility, can also lead to more human error and potential security holes.

Apple iOS

Apple iPhones are generally thought to be much less at risk from viruses and malware because they have protections systems built-in which include:

– The need to go through the Apple App Store to download an app. Apple reviews each app for malicious code before it makes it into the store, thereby stopping an obvious method of infection.

– iOS “sandboxing” stops apps from touching data from other apps or from touching the operating system, thereby protecting a user’s contact and other personal data.

– The majority of iOS apps do not run as an administrator, thereby limiting their ability to do damage.

– Apple issues frequent updates to patch any known vulnerabilities, which everyone with a compatible device receives at the same time.

Still Targeted

Although the vast majority of viruses/malware attacks on phones affect Google’s Android phone OS (97 per cent), and viruses are rare on Apple iPhones due to the built-in security measures, they are also still targeted by cybercriminals, and vulnerabilities in iOS platforms do exist.

For example:

– Phishing attacks e.g. bogus pop-up ads are used to trick iPhone users into downloading malicious software.

– Back in August 2019 a Google Project Zero contributor reported discovering a set of hacked websites (from February 2019) that were being used to attack iPhones to infect them with iOS malware and had most likely been doing so over a two-year period.

Signs That Your Phone May Have a Virus

Some of the main signs that your phone may already have a virus/be infected by malicious software are:

– Unusual and/or unexpected charges on your phone bill e.g. additional texting charges.

– Your phone contacts reporting that they have received strange messages from you.

– The phone crashes regularly. 

– New/unexpected apps are present.

– Apps crash more often than usual.

– An increase in the number of invasive adverts on your phone (a sign of adware).

– Slowing down of the phone and poor performance.

– Large amounts of data being used, without an obvious cause.

– The battery life is noticeably reduced.

What Next?

If your phone is infected with a virus, take the following steps:

– Switch the phone to airplane mode to stop malicious apps from receiving and sending data.

– Check the most recently installed apps against the listed number of downloads (in the App Store and Google Play).  Low download numbers, low ratings and bad reviews may indicate the need to delete the app.

– Install anti-virus software and carry out a scan of your handset.

– You can also contact your phone’s service provider or visit the high street store if you think you have downloaded a malicious/suspect app

iPhones

If you suspect that your iPhone may be infected:

– Check your apps and delete any unwanted ones.

– Clear the phone’s history and data, and restart.

– Consider installing mobile anti-virus software.

Prevention

Prevention is the best form of cure, and the steps you can take to ensure that your phone is both secure and not infected with a virus include:

– Using mobile security and antivirus scan apps.

– Only using trusted apps / trusted app sources.

– Check the publisher of an app (which other apps they have created), check the numbers of installations and positive reviews before installing an app, and check which permissions the app requests when you install it.

– Uninstalling old apps and turning off connections when not using them.

– Locking phones when they are not in use.

– Not ‘jailbreaking’ or ‘rooting’ a phone.

– Using 2-factor authentication.

– Using secure Wi-Fi and VPN rather than just the free Wi-Fi when out and about. 

– Being careful with email security and hygiene e.g. monitor for phishing emails and not clicking on unknown/suspicious attachments and links.

– Being careful with security around texts, social media messages and ads.

App Developers

With apps being the source of many infections of phones, there is an argument that there is responsibility among mobile app developers and those commissioning mobile apps to ensure that security is built-in from the ground up. This should mean making sure that all source code is secure and known bug-free, all data exchanged over app should be encrypted, caution should be exercised when using third-party libraries for code, and only authorised APIs should be used.

Also, developers should be building-in high levels of authentication, using tamper-detection technologies, using tokens instead of device identifiers to identify a session, using the best cryptography practices e.g. store keys in secure containers, and conducting regular, thorough testing.

Going Forward

If you train yourself to regard your phone as another mobile computer (that probably has a lot more personal data on it) that can be targeted by cybercriminals and needs protection, and are cautious regarding apps, emails, texts and adverts, then you are less likely to end up with a damaging virus/malware program on your phone.