Kindle Fire HDX Antivirus – Do You Need It?

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I’ve previously written about the pointlessness of antivirus protection for the Kindle Fire line of tablets (see my post, Kindle Fire Antivirus: You Still Don’t Need It), but the new HDX line of Fires adds a new wrinkle since they all come with the option for 4G cell service connectivity.

In my prior posts on this topic, I discussed how some hackers target cell phones specifically to add bogus charges to the phone owners’ bills. Many, if not most, cell phone owners won’t notice small charges scattered across an entire month, but they add up quickly. Some hackers go for broke right out of the gate and try to make a single, large bogus charge to the phone owner’s bill (usually masquerading as some kind of pay-by-the-minute service, like a party line or psychic reading service). They sometimes get away with it because these types of charges are made to the phone owner’s account immediately and the hackers’ hidden, offshore location makes them hard to find or prosecute.


Cell Connectivity Changes The Game, If You’re Using It

All of the new Fire HDX tablets have a cell connectivity option. Note that I said “option”: all of the HDX tablets are also available in a Wi-Fi only model. The Wi-Fi only models have different hardware inside than the cell-enabled models, so there’s no risk your Wi-Fi only model could ever be used to make bogus cell service account charges. However, those who do connect their HDX tablets to a cell service account are opening up a possible avenue for that kind of hacker activity. It’s no bigger nor better an avenue than any cell phone, but it’s something HDX owners with cell connectivity need to be aware of.

Those who opt for WiFi only HDXs still have very little to worry about, because the Wi-Fi HDXs are still not “proliferation-friendly” devices. Like all Fires, they’re designed to connect primarily to the Amazon “ecosystem”, and even when you use the browser or Wi-Fi you’re relying on Amazon-proprietary software to do so. Hackers want to target devices that can spread their malicious programs very quickly, very easily, to as many different types of devices possible, and to the maximum possible number of devices. Fires and HDXs without cell connectivity don’t meet any of those requirements.

As of this writing I’ve yet to hear of any hack, virus or malware appearing on any Kindle Fire tablets, even the 4G LTE models (with cell connectivity).

**UPDATE 11/14** I’m hearing many reports of the FBI/Moneypak virus appearing on various Fire models, not just HDXs, but in every case the user opened the door to hackers by either rooting their device, sideloading apps, or downloading a suspicious attachment from within the email app on the Fire.  See my post, Malware Update: FBI Moneypak / Ransomware Virus On Kindle Fire and How To Avoid It, for full details. So far, this is the only malware I’ve heard of showing up on Fire tablets.


No Other Malware Attacks Yet, But…

…that doesn’t mean there never will be.

On the one hand, current security solutions for the Fire line of tablets cannot possibly protect you against an attack that has yet to occur, since the security software companies can’t create software to detect and address a threat that doesn’t exist yet. Before a new malware “definition” can be added to a database of hacker attacks, the programmers have to be able to examine the attack to figure out how it works and exactly what it’s doing. If you buy an anti-malware/security program or subscription right away, you could end up paying for something you don’t really need for months, or maybe even a year or longer, depending on how long it takes the number of Kindle Fire HDX 4G LTEs to reach critical mass and how quickly hackers target them.

On the other hand, quality security software is updated very quickly upon discovery of any new threat, so those who already have some kind of security app on their HDXs will receive new layers of protection more quickly than those who haven’t invested in such an app when that first hack occurs.

Therefore, if you’re getting a Fire with the 4G cell connectivity option (and intend to use its cell functionality), or already own a Fire with a cell service subscription, plan on getting some kind of security app for it.

The annual subscription fee can run you $50 or more for a standalone solution, so it’s worth checking with whatever antivirus/security software you already use to protect your home computer(s) to see if it’s possible to add mobile devices. Many antivirus/security software providers have free apps you can install on mobile devices to connect them to your pre-existing subscription, though some may charge an extra fee for adding new devices. Contact your antivirus/security software provider (email address or phone number should be available on their website) to inquire about what’s available to you.



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  1. Comment by Sharon Taylor:

    What about if you sideload apps from 1mobile? It’s that unsafe?

    • Comment by Mom:

      Sideloading apps from anywhere is risky, unless you personally know for a CERTAINTY that the app is clean. The only way you can possibly know that is to either a) be personally acquainted with, and trust, the developer or b) be enough of a tech geek to know how to test apps on an emulation server before installing them to your tablet. Sideloading is, by definition, going outside the normal operating system and processes of your device. It’s like hacking “lite”.

      • Comment by Sharon Taylor:

        Oops! Now what?

        • Comment by Mom:

          If you believe your tablet’s infected, the first thing to try is a factory reset. Unfortunately, if you’ve gotten the MoneyPak virus this probably won’t work. In that case, all you can do is contact the manufacturer of the tablet for further advice. I’ve heard from numerous tablet owners who got MoneyPak that nothing could be done to recover their tablets. Even within warranty, it’s generally against the terms of use to sideload apps or hack the device so doing either of those things can void the warranty.

          • Comment by Sharon Taylor:

            Thank you for all the information! I was asking because my boss’s husband used 1Mobile to download an app (not found on Amazon). My Kindle is in no danger but his might be.

          • Comment by Sharon Taylor:

            How would he know if he’s got the MoneyPak virus?

          • Comment by Mom:

            Oh, he’d know all right! Immediately upon powering up, the screen would display a message saying the device is locked and can only be unlocked by calling a certain phone number or going to a certain website, where the device owner is prompted to enter credit card info to make a payment.

          • Comment by Sharon Taylor:

            Oh thank you!

  2. Comment by Greg:

    If I visited a site infected with viruses, malware etc via the browser, would my kindle fire HDX prevent them from infecting it?

    • Comment by Mom:

      There’s nothing built into the Fire HDX to prevent such an infection, but it’s still not too likely because the Silk browser that comes pre-installed on all Fire tablets doesn’t support most of the technologies that malware relies on to do its dirty work (e.g., multi-threaded browser processes—having multiple “sessions” open simultaneously—, Flash, etc.). This type of infection is much more likely to occur on a PC or Mac. If you’ve hacked your Fire or installed an unsupported browser / browser extensions, it’s another story. Then you’re definitely at a much higher risk.

      It’s usually pretty easy to tell when a website tries to install malware:
      1. You get a popup asking you to download a “required” update or file. Do NOT tap to download the file.

      2. You get a popup saying malware has been detected on the site and are prompted to run a virus scan by tapping a provided button or link. Do NOT tap the button or link.

      3. There’s no popup or message, but the browser and your device start running very, very slow. This is because something is downloading and installing in the background, without your knowing it. In that case close not just the suspicious tab but the entire browser to stop the download.

  3. Comment by Hermgirl:

    Wish I had been smart enough to look this up before I paid ten bucks for some “antivirus” app at the Amazon Appstore. I don’t even need it, and I can’t return it.