'Always-on' malware protection

M1's Mobile Guard service monitors risks at the network level so users need not activate the anti-malware app unless a threat is detected.
M1's Mobile Guard service monitors risks at the network level so users need not activate the anti-malware app unless a threat is detected.ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM

If malware strikes your smartphone, would you be aware of it?

From today, a new service by M1, a first by a local telco, promises to alert customers within 30 seconds of malware infecting their phones.

For $2 a month, the service, called Mobile Guard, aims to give the telco's 1.2 million mobile postpaid subscribers peace of mind when surfing or downloading apps from the Web.

Mr Alex Tan, M1's chief innovation officer, said it provides "always on" malware protection at the network level - an industry first. Telcos typically offer an anti-malware app that must be downloaded on the phone. Users also need to click on the app to update the virus signatures, perform scans to detect any hidden malware and clean the phone of any infection.

"But would users run it daily, weekly or monthly?" asked Mr Tan. "By the time malware is found, it would have lingered in the phone for days and done harm."

M1's service takes the hassle out of users' hands by monitoring threats at the network level so users need not activate the anti-malware app unless one is detected.

According to the latest Nokia Threat Intelligence Report, an average of 1 per cent of more than 100 million Web-connected devices worldwide were infected monthly last year. More than 80 per cent of the infected mobile devices were Android smartphones, and the rest were laptops and Apple iPhones.

A separate report by security software firm Trend Micro points to similar numbers in Singapore. About 5,000 app downloads or 1 per cent of all mobile app downloads here were infected with malware during the three months to June. Singapore's infection rate was less than half of that in the Asia-Pacific region.

Operated by Nokia's NetGuard anti-malware solution, Mobile Guard actively checks devices connected to M1's mobile network for signs of infection, and immediately sends out a notification to the mobile user by SMS or e-mail detailing where the threat lies.

Affected customers can download a Trend Micro app, through a Web-link, to remove the malware.

The Trend Micro app works only on Android devices. Owners of an infected Apple iPhone must perform a factory reset and manually delete the infected app that contains the malware.

Like Trend Micro's app, rival telco Singtel's ZoneAlarm app automatically scans a mobile device for malicious apps every four hours, but users still need to remove the infected apps.

Sales manager Aaron Koh, 41, said the price of M1's service is affordable and he might get it for his son, aged nine. "He has a tendency to click on every Web link and expose his phone to security risks."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline ''Always-on' malware protection'. Print Edition | Subscribe