Android Alert: Five Security Threats You Didn’t Know About

When you think of viruses, spyware, and other security threats, you probably think of your PC. After all, that’s where the majority of these kinds of attacks take place. But malware on your mobile phone? Or even your tablet? Nah, that could never happen. Could it? Yes it could, especially if your mobile device runs the Android operating system. According to Juniper Networks, Android malware samples increased a whopping 472 percent in the period between July and November, 2011.

Hackers have declared war on Android devices, and you might get caught in the crossfire. Fortunately, as Sun Tzu famously noted in The Art of War, “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.” Here are the five biggest enemies you should know — and how to beat them at their own game.

1. SMS Trojans

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Pass Down Your Old PC

Charles Ripley , BrandPost

Buying a new PC can be a lot like buying a new car — especially when the kids start clamoring to take over the old one. And just like a rusty-but-trusty set of a wheels, a well-traveled PC might be just the thing for kids. It has the virtue of being paid for, and it probably has enough power to handle their more basic computing needs.

Indeed, a desktop or laptop that’s a few years old can easily pull duty as a game machine for younger kids, a homework helper for the grade-school set, or even a full-fledged work machine for teens who need to research and write papers. It’s just a matter of getting the system properly prepped, of clearing out your old files, adding a fresh install of Windows, and, most importantly, making sure the system is secure.

1. Reformat and reinstall

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Add Some Music to Your Memories

Charles Ripley , BrandPost

The honeymoon, the birthday party, the family vacation. These and other big events tend to draw Kardashian-level photo coverage, what with everyone and their brother armed with digital cameras and multi-megapixel phones and tablets.

The question is, what do you do with all those photos? How can you arrange them in such a way that you’ll actually want to look at them again — and make them inviting for others to view?

Think MTV: Turn them into a music video. Thanks to simple software and Web tools, you can turn any batch of photos into an animated, engaging slideshow, complete with a musical soundtrack of your choosing. Then you can choose your delivery method: DVD, Facebook, YouTube, even a password-protected online viewing room.

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Safe Shopping on Your Smartphone

Smartphones are all about instant gratification. Want to listen to a song you can’t get out of your head? Tap, tap, done. Get a stock quote? Tap, tap, done. Video-chat with a faraway loved one? Tap, tap--you get the idea.

And here’s where it really gets fun. Did a friend just recommend an amazing book? Gone are the days of hunting for a bookstore — now you just tap, tap, and order. Same goes for buying a cool scarf you just saw someone wearing, preordering the Blu-ray version of the movie you just watched, or even ordering a pizza to pick up on your way home from work.

Awesome as that kind of instant gratification can be, it pays to be cautious when conducting commerce by smartphone. Security risks are just as prevalent in your pocket as they are on your PC, which is why you should never tap, tap, buy without a safety net.

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Protect Your Smartphone from Mobile Malware

Only computers catch viruses, right? Hackers exclusively target popular desktop operating systems, and because your smartphone runs on entirely different software, it can’t possibly be at risk. Right?

Wrong. A recent study found that mobile malware rose in 2011 a whopping 155 percent. That means hackers are increasingly targeting smartphones and their users, with attacks that are growing sneakier and more sophisticated.

This is not to say you should lock your phone inside a closet and never touch it again. Although the risks of mobile malware are on the rise, you can enjoy your smartphone’s many features safely by using common sense and learning a few security techniques.

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How to Stay Connected When Traveling Abroad

For some travelers, the idea of visiting a foreign country means unwinding —and disconnecting. But if you can’t bear the idea of cutting the cord and spending a week or two without e-mail, Twitter, texting, and calls back home, you can easily —and affordably — stay connected.

All it takes is a little advance planning. For example, if you’re traveling with a laptop, find out if your hotel offers Wi-Fi — and if there’s an extra charge for it. Depending on the rates, it might make more sense to scout out nearby Internet cafes, which are ubiquitous in many foreign countries and often your cheapest option for getting online.

On the other hand, it’s nice to be in control of where you get online and how much you pay for it, in which case you can rent a mobile hotspot — a small, portable Internet access point you can use with up to five devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.).

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Bring Your Own Device to Work

The line between work and home gets blurrier all the time. Many workers telecommute, turning the den or local Starbucks into a remote office. Others use their company-issued laptops for personal activities like shopping and travel planning. But the big trend these days is taking your own laptop, smartphone, and/or tablet to the office. And that raises a host of security concerns — not just for your employer, but for you as well.

On the surface, bringing your own device to work seems like a win-win scenario. You get to use the hardware and operating system you’re comfortable with (say, an iPhone or Android phone instead of a company-mandated BlackBerry, or a shiny new ultrabook instead of a clunky, outdated laptop), and the company gets a break from having to buy your gear.

Just be prepared to follow a few rules. Many organizations worry about confidential or mission-critical business data housed on unsecured gadgets, which tend to be much easier targets for hackers than company-issued hardware.

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