Cell phone hackers target smartphone users: How to protect yourself

AMARILLO, Texas----Cyber hackers are not just targeting your home computer or laptop anymore.

They're going after your mobile phone and you could very easily be the next victim.

Google and Apple now dominate more than 70-percent of the smart phone market today.

"A cell phone now isn't just a phone," Andrew Brandt with Cat Man Du said. "It's a miniature computer in your pocket."

Before purchasing that next smartphone, you may want to jot down some notes.

"Just like your computer on your desk can get a virus, so can your phone," Brandt said.

Technicians at Cat Man Du tell us viruses aren't targeting any one particular cell phone carrier.

Instead, hackers are generally going after Android smartphone users.

"With an Android phone, you can download applications outside of the application store such as through QR codes or a hyperlink on a web site," he said.

QR codes and third party applications are typically safe but if you're not careful, they can contain malicious software that can steal information such as contacts, passwords and social media logins.

You'll generally be able to tell if a QR code or application is phony by checking user ratings before downloading.

However, consumers with iPhones have one advantage.

"An iPhone is more secure than an Android phone just because of the way the operating system is built," Brandt said. "With an iPhone you have to download all of the applications through their app store and you can't download information to your phone without going through the app store."

This means third party apps are automatically filtered out when using an iPhone.

Third party apps are meant to enrich the cell phone users online data experience with ringtones, games, videos and music.

Consumer analysts say you can filter out "phony" or "dummy" apps by reading user ratings prior to downloading them.

Also, be cautious when using social media and mobile banking applications over WiFi.

"As long as it's through a secure network, all your information is safe and hidden," Sly Espinoza with Best Buy said. "Unsecured networks don't have password keys while secured networks do."

Generally speaking, your home or work will have a secured WiFi Internet connected marked by a "lock" icon.

When you have to physically enter a password to access the Internet, you are accessing a secured network.

Unsecured networks are typically found at places like restaurants and coffee shops.

Also, if you have a Bluetooth capable device, turn the feature off unless using a hands-free headset in the car.

This way, there is no chance hackers can transfer data such as contacts and pictures to and from your phone.

Finally, if you suspect your phone has a virus, you should see your cell phone carrier for assistance.

"You can usually tell if you see any type of freezing or odd messages saying that your phone is unprotected," Espinoza said.

Cat Man Du agrees.

"You can also tell if your phone starts acting a little bit weird or if it slows down a little bit when loading information," Brandt said.

Most viruses can be removed from your smartphone by simply resetting your device to factory default settings.

However, beware that once your phone is reset, you may have lost your contacts and pictures.

Between Android, Microsoft and Apple, both Cat Man Du and Best Buy agree iPhones are the safest when combating viruses and cell phone hacking.