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Are the Feds a Bigger Threat to Your Device Than Malware When You Live in the U.S.?

October 9, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Apparently, when one lives in the U.S., we can have a choice of who steals our personal information from our smartphones – hackers or government spies…according to findings reported by our source.  Now if you live in Russia, where there are literally ten factories that churn out 30-percent of the world’s malware, you are far more likely to have it affect your phone than if you lived in the good old U.S.  So that’s a good thing, right?  What is really disturbing about living in the U.S. with a smartphone is that you face a far greater risk of having your phone hacked by the government than you are by some Russian malware.  Yikes!

Apple likes to point out that the Android Operating System (OS) is more likely to have malware attacks – implying that Apple’s iOS is safer.  When in reality, misery and hackers love lots of company and targets – Android accounted for 84.6-percent of all smartphones shipped in Q2 2014, according to IDC, so it is not surprising why attacks against it are far higher than they are against iOS.  What is so disturbing is that the problem appears to be growing at a tremendous rate.  It reports that: “[I]n the first half of 2014 alone, 175,442 new unique Android malicious programs were detected.  That is 18.3% (or 32,231 malicious programs) more than in the entire year of 2013.”  Also of note is the fact that over 59-percent of the malware is aimed at programs capable of stealing the user’s money and that over 57-percent of detected malware was designed to send SMS messages that contained malicious programs.

While nearly 52-percent of all malware attacks stay in Russia – probably due to Russia’s heavy reliance on mobile payments – in the U.S., Android has only 1.13-percent of the malware attacks.  In the U.S., as compared to worldwide, Android is not as prevalent, but we do have far more malware coming from our government than others do.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation declares:  “The US government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001.” The main problem with our smartphones is that it know just about EVERYTHING about us – not only our current contacts, phone calls and messages…but also our past history can easily be traced.  Our smartphone not only knows where we are at this moment, but where we have been prior…all of that information can easily be retrieved.  It knows where we go on the internet, where we have been on the internet and even what we have purchased.  I am rather boring…getting up to sneak something to eat at midnight would be on the wild side for me…so maybe the CIA isn’t watching me.  Do I care…yes, but will I stop using my smartphone to conduct all of my business…no!  So if you live in Russia you must watch out for the the black-bag hacker and in the U.S., as usual, it’s the white-collar government ‘criminals.’  Security expert Bruce Schneier sums it up best:

“The recent decades have given [law enforcement] an unprecedented ability to put us under surveillance and access our data.  Our cell phones provide them with a detailed history of our movements.  Our call records, e-mail history, buddy lists, and Facebook pages tell them who we associate with.  The hundreds of companies that track us on the Internet tell them what we’re thinking about.  Ubiquitous cameras capture our faces everywhere.  And most of us back up our iPhone data on iCloud, which the FBI can still get a warrant for.  It truly is the golden age of surveillance.”  I never did trust those clouds.