Malicious software (or malware) can hide unseen on computers and mobile devices while performing all kinds of activities that prey on the owners of the electronic devices like stealing personal data, secretly accessing advertisements, etc.

Last year Secure-D, a security platform developed by Upstream, found malware in  1.69 million android devices belonging to South Africans. The program blocked transactions that were made from over 18,000 different applications.

The most common kind of apps that were affected were the video apps that allow users to watch and share videos clips with their friends. Hiding malicious software in such apps allows fraudsters to sign users up for premium accounts and other services with the intent of draining their accounts.

In 2019, South Africa’s worst three offending Apps were,VidMate(15 million blocked transactions), Snaptube (2 million blocked transactions) and, Vivavideo (560,000 blocked transactions).

The most common targets are Android devices given how the Android OS is based on open source code and how Android apps can be downloaded and installed from unauthorized sources.

Furthermore, consumers who use prepaid data on their devices to access web services are also vulnerable. Malicious users can use their airtime to subscribe for content that requires payment in secrecy.

Malicious use of consumer data is a serious threat. It’s estimated that these transactions would have cost users $2.1bn in unwanted charges had they not been identified.

For the industry as a whole, losses from online, mobile and in-app advertising reached $42 billion in 2019 and are expected to reach $100 billion by 2023.