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Sophisticated viruses for smart phones are certainly predicted for the future. Do you need to worry about it yet?

I have a question about Verizon wireless. I'm using anti-virus on my smartphone. Verizon insists that their system is so secure that no anti-virus is needed to protect my 4G smartphone. I have been using Comodo Anti-virus and Verizon says it slows down the connection and they keep uninstalling it whenever I take it to them for any type of service or question about how something works. Are they correct? Everything I've read says to protect your phone. What's the truth in this matter?

In this excerpt from Answercast #34, I look at the stage of development that we are in, both for security on smart phones and in the production of viruses and malware itself.

Viruses on smart phones

Unfortunately, the truth is kind of grey. So let's at least start with their statement. I certainly am not going to believe them that their system is so secure that you don't need anti-virus. It has nothing to do with their system being secure.

  • There is definitely potential for malware on smartphones.

What's protecting people right now is the fact there just isn't a whole lot of it. It's starting to come up. It's starting to happen, but it's still in the early stages. It's not something that, for example, I worry about right now on my smartphone.

Stay safe on a smartphone

I happen to use a 4G smartphone from Verizon wireless and I do not have any sort of anti-malware software installed on it today.

I'm not someone that runs around and installs a lot of different apps. That's one of the ways you can begin to protect yourself:

  • Be very, very selective and very hesitant as to exactly what applications you install on your phone.

Depending on where you're getting the applications, it can either be somewhat trustworthy or not trustworthy at all.

Vetting of apps

In the Android sphere, there is really no absolute trust like, say, the iTunes store would be for Apple iPhones.

  • And even there, I know that there's a case of at least one piece of malware having it made it through the iPhone vetting process.

So, that's the single most important thing you can do to keep your phone safe.

Phone anti-virus

There is anti-virus software for the phones. Comodo has one. I know that there are others as well.

  • I believe that they are also kind-of/sort-of in the early stages of development themselves.

  • Understanding how to do anti-malware on a device like a phone is something that I think everybody's still learning how to do.

Anti-virus slowing the connection

Does it slow down your connection? I honestly don't know. I can't say one way or another.

  • It's possible.

If it's important to you, I would actually test this. I would spend a little bit of time understanding what your upload and download speeds really are and whether you even notice a difference. To be honest, if you don't notice a difference, I'm not sure that it matters whether it slows down your phone or not.

Anti-virus data usage

What Verizon might be concerned about is the overall data usage. Depending on your data plan, that is something that you will want to be paying attention to.

  • Keep an eye on your data usage.

If you have a limit (if you've got a cap on your usage, or if you've got a point at which you start paying extra for more data on your smartphone), it is possible that an anti-virus tool could cause you to reach that limit sooner:

  • Simply because of the downloads that it may be doing to keep itself up to date,

  • Or because of the information that it may be sending back to the anti-malware vendor to report the kinds of problems that is encountering.

So those are the things to look for.

Not an immediate problem

Right now, today, I really don't see it as being a huge issue.

I do expect and I do predict that at some point it will start to become more of an issue for all of us.

  • At some point, I will be recommending that everybody who has a smartphone run some form of anti-malware tool.

  • I'm not at that point right now.

Like I said, I'm not running it myself because I know my own behaviors. But it's something that I fully expect to happen; probably within the next couple of years, if not sooner.

Article C5575 - July 12, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Bill
July 13, 2012 2:47 PM

Does everything you say here apply equally to iPods and other WiFi connected gizmos?

Mark J
July 13, 2012 2:57 PM

@Bill
This advice would apply to all smart devices. iPhones, iPods and iPads run a version of iOS. Most other phones and devices run a version of Android or Windows. All the rest run some kind of OS which are all vulnerable to malware.

NL_Derek
July 13, 2012 3:21 PM

"Verizon insists that their system is so secure that no anti-virus is needed to protect my 4G smartphone"

If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might want to buy... :-)

And yes, of course it will slow your system down. Nobody has yet invented an anti-malware system that doesn't use resources needed by your genuine applications. And if anybody ever does, I'll buy Brooklyn Bridge myself!

--- Derek

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