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Nearly all of us, every day, text or use one mobile-based instant messaging app or another — it’s simply a natural, habitual part of daily life in this digital age. 

And, increasingly, this makes mobile devices a prime target for cybercriminal activities. Malware and scams sent via instant messaging apps and SMS text messages are increasing threats to mobile users. 

To help protect both consumers and businesses against such attacks, Bitdefender today launched Bitdefender Chat Protection, what it is calling the industry’s first chat protection feature for mobile-based instant messaging apps. 

“Cybercriminals have expanded the attack surface to now include popular chat applications — in addition to SMS, email and notifications,” said Adriana Sandu, product manager at the cybersecurity software company. Due to the high prevalence of these attacks, we felt it was necessary to add an additional layer of protection for users.”

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Bitdefender sees growing attack surface

Globally, more than two billion people use WhatsApp, and more than one billion use Facebook Messenger. 

And, according to the 2021 Bitdefender Consumer Threat Landscape Report, spam and untrusted domains account for a combined 85% of detected malicious URLs.

“Mobile threats continue to increase, and cybercriminals have evolved beyond email-based phishing attacks to include SMS text messages (smishing) and popular instant messaging applications,” said Ciprian Istrate, senior vice president of operations for the Bitdefender consumer solutions group.

This can easily extend to organizations. In fact, 30% of cybersecurity professionals cited mobile apps as presenting the highest security risk to business. Another 42% identified customer-facing web apps of great concern. “In a post-pandemic world, when many are still working from home or in a hybrid workplace, malicious link-based attacks are a threat not only for consumers, but for enterprise infrastructure as well,” said Sandu.

Beyond the browser level

Bitdefender Chat Protection continuously monitors chat sessions during live sessions in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Discord. It immediately alerts users of suspicious links that might attempt to steal financial data, credentials and other sensitive information, according to Sandu. Also, phishing attempts that rely on human curiosity, urgency and impersonation are recognized and flagged. 

Users receive a warning along with information about associated risks and a suggested course of action, she said. If these warnings are ignored, built-in web protection technologies prevent users from navigating to the malicious webpage. If links are inadvertently shared, users have an option to recall or delete the message, thus stopping “attack propagation.” 

“Until now, consumer security products detected and blocked malicious links at the browser level — only when the user tried to open them,” said Sandu. 

Prevention, privacy, identity protection

Bitdefender’s endpoint protection tools were awarded this year with Best Protection for Windows and Best Android Security from AV-TEST, an independent IT security-testing firm. Other AV-certified companies competing in its market include CrowdStrike, SentinelOne and Sophos (on the business side); and McAfee, NortonLifeLock and Trend Micro (on the consumer side). 

According to Sandu, Bitdefender continues to develop new technologies to help protect consumers from the most advanced cyberthreats, “and keep pace as the threat landscape continues to evolve.” 

She added that, “strong security for consumers needs to incorporate all three areas — prevention, privacy and identity protection.” 

Bitdefender Chat Protection is incorporated into Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android and is part of the Bitdefender Scam Alert technology. The app is available via the Bitdefender website or the Google Play Store

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