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Smartphones are no longer safe from virus attacks

By Steve Alexander, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Published: March 18, 2014
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Q: I recently received a smartphone text message containing a link to a website. On my PC, I would immediately delete such spam without opening it. But I thought it could do no damage on my smartphone, and out of curiosity opened the link. The browser flashed different Web addresses that appeared to be reroutes before eventually going to a women's health site. Afterward, I started getting bounce-back emails from people on my contact list that were either out of the office or had new addresses. The message, apparently sent by me to at least a dozen people, had a link to another website. Is it possible to get a virus through your smartphone?

A: Yes, and it appears that your phone has gotten one. The attack you describe resembles that of the “NotCompatible” virus, which takes over your phone. It can steal your contact list so it can send the same scam email to your friends. As a general rule, you shouldn’t risk your smartphone by opening a strange website link any more than you would risk your PC.

Depending on what kind of phone you have, download a security program from either Google Play (Android) or the Apple App Store that can remove a virus. So far, it appears that more of the malicious smartphone software is aimed at phones using Google’s Android operating system than at Apple’s iPhone. This is not surprising considering that there are far more Android phones. Research firm IDC found that Android phones made up 78 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013. Apple made up less than 18 percent.

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