Hackers trick kids into installing malicious apps – keeping your family safe

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Tweens and teens are being targeted by sites like TikTok and Instagram to download malicious apps. (Photo: Getty)

It is impossible to monitor children’s internet activity 24/7. New social media platforms and messaging apps are constantly popping up, and young people are always the first to know. Nearly half of children aged 12 to 16 feel addicted to their smartphones, says cybersecurity group Enough is enough. Since teens and tweens can also be overly confident, it’s no wonder they are targeted by online scammers.

If you’re like 39 percent of parents, use your parental controls to filter out dangers online. Sadly, that’s not enough — especially now that scammers are targeting kids through one of their favorite digital pastimes: gaming apps.

More than 2.4 million people unknowingly downloaded malicious gaming apps last summer

Malicious apps, Norton Security Online

Malicious apps, Norton Security Online

Brace yourself: malicious apps disguised as games were downloaded 15 million times this summer – no less straight from the Google Play Store – according to the cybersecurity professionals at Avast. Many of the games, puzzles and even smartphone wallpaper apps were advertised on youth-oriented platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. But the kids and teens who installed it hundreds of infected apps didn’t know they were carrying dangerous adware.

Once installed, a malicious app floods your mobile device with unwanted pop ads. Just one click and those ads will activate malware or malicious software to take over the device and steal sensitive information like payment details, social security numbers and anything else that could lead to identity theft. If the phone is connected to your home Wi-Fi network, other devices on that network may also be affected.

Norton Security Online is an undisputed leader in cybersecurity (Photo: Yahoo)

Norton Security Online is an undisputed leader in cybersecurity (Photo: Yahoo)

One way to ward off malicious apps right away is to invest in powerful antivirus software like software Norton Security Online — an undisputed leader in cybersecurity. One account protects up to five mobile devices against all kinds of cyber threats. Once downloaded, the software will detect and remove existing malware, then thwart future attempts at adware attacks in real time. It also shields any personal or financial information associated with each device using bank-grade encryption.

Norton Security Online, Malicious Apps

Norton Security Online, Malicious Apps

Malware can hide in each app. It’s also easy to fall prey to adware traps when shopping, banking, or donating online. Malware even comes in the form of phishing emails and text messages.

While Norton antivirus software is critical to your family’s online safety, there are also precautions you should take against malicious apps. We turned to cybersecurity expert Nevin Markwart, Chief Information Security Officer at FutureVault, for tips.

Only download apps from legitimate sources like Apple and Google

While there are third-party app stores, they are at a much higher risk of malware infections, so it’s best to block children’s access to them altogether.

“The key to avoiding malicious apps is to only download apps from Apple or Google,” says Markwart. “These platforms have matured over the past decade and are doing a great job of filtering out application developers who violate platform security and privacy requirements. Using other platforms can be quite risky.”

Buy it: Norton Security Online, 30 Day Free Trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Beware of giving permissions when an app asks for it

Norton Security Online, Malicious Apps

Norton Security Online, Malicious Apps

An app you download may ask you to enable location services or request permission to access your camera, microphone, or even your storage. It’s easy to hit “accept” to keep things moving, but Makwart warns, “be very diligent when granting permissions to the app. Ask yourself, does the app really need access to your camera or personal contacts?”

Unnecessary permissions should be a red flag that an app is looking for attack opportunities. Be careful and instruct children to do the same. If an app can’t work without the requested permissions, you always have the option to grant them later.

Buy it: Norton Security Online, 30 Day Free Trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Don’t keep apps ‘open’ on your device when you’re not using them

“If apps are ‘running in the background’, they can still send information and data back to the app developer,” says Makwart. “If the user has configured the app to receive the user’s location, the app developer may unnecessarily track their users for extended periods of time.”

In short, if an app doesn’t need to know your location, don’t let it. Young people are often conditioned to have apps like Snapchat running in the background so that friends know where they are at all times. They may need a reminder to break this habit.

However, one program that you can always run in the background is Norton Security Online. It’s the software that never sleeps, helping to protect kids, parents, and anyone with a mobile device from malicious apps that want more information than you ever need to share.

Norton Security Online (Photo: subscriptions.yahoo.com)

Norton Security Online (Photo: subscriptions.yahoo.com)

Buy it: Norton Security Online, 30 Day Free Trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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