NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Millions of smartphone owners are unknowingly leaving themselves vulnerable to hackers and malware attacks leading to the loss of sensitive data and money, even when the solution to keeping a phone secure is relatively simple.
Kaspersky Labs reports that 295,000 new mobile malicious programs were detected in 2014, almost three times the number found the year before, and that its security software had fended off about 1.4 million attacks on smartphones. McAfee, which is owned by Intel (INTC) , said it had detected four million such attacks so far this year and expects that number to grow exponentially in the coming years as cyber criminals begin using ready-to-use hacker kits designed to make stealing data even simpler.
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While criminal enterprises are the primary force behind the attacks, the real reason for the expected growth is consumer apathy. Most smartphone owners do not take the time to implement a few basic steps that would help secure their phone and, in fact many, unknowingly leave the door wide open and invite in the hackers.
"We have found that while consumers say they worry about device and data security, ironically most are willing to allow apps access to personal information. A recent Symantec survey found that nearly two in five (37%) do not worry at all about getting a virus on their smartphone," said David Lee, senior manager, mobile product management at Symantec (SYMC) , maker of the Norton brand of Internet security software.
Today the main threat is coming from the huge number of apps, mainly Android, being downloaded onto phones and tablets. Lee said hackers are using apps as a Trojan horse to sneak into phones. The main reason they are able to gain such easy entry is people pay little attention to what permissions they are giving the app when it's downloaded.
"App users think they understand what they agree to when downloading the app, but in reality have little understanding of common app permission practices and behaviors," Lee said, adding to make matters worse a recent Symantec survey found concluded that 66 percent of people will willingly trade their privacy for a free app.
In many cases phone owners are their own worst enemy when they do not read what private data to which they are giving the app access.