Did you know that the apps on your smartphone may be putting your personal and business data at risk? Many of your mobile downloads contain malware disguised as a trusted app that can lead to data and identity leaks. On top of the risk of malware, many apps are demanding that you give them permission to access and use your personal data if you want to use the app. Many people never stop to look at which types of information the app will be able to see and how the app’s creators will be using it.
Recently, malware has been popping up everywhere including very popular apps like Angry Birds and Need for Speed Most Wanted. According to some sources, as much as 30% of Google search results and 60% of Bing search results lead to pages infected with Malware. You can be affected by this malware on any of your devices including your smartphones or tablets.
Even if you avoid downloading an app infected with malware, you run the risk of willfully handing over your private information. Inconspicuous apps such as Flashlight, GO Battery Saver and even some Bible apps put you at risk of covert spying, sharing your data with cyber criminals because they require you allow them permission to access your device.
Here are a few of the many permissions you may be granting your app’s creators:
- Access and use your camera or webcam
- Turn your Bluetooth on or off and/or control pairing options
- Utilize your GPS to identify your location
- Turn on your microphone to record sounds
- Manage Wifi connections
- Access and edit information stored on your phone or usb
- Access text messages
- Know which wifi connections you are using
- Disable your screen lock
- Install shortcuts
So what should you do? First off, go to www.privacygrade.org to check your apps. This site details the permissions required of most apps available in the app stores. If you find that you have apps that score “D”, get rid of them immediately. Take a look at all of the permissions listed for your apps and decide if their requirements seem like something that would reasonably be necessary for the app to function properly.
Some other tips you can use to protect your identity are:
1. Disable your GPS at all time except in an emergency or when you need to use your smartphone for navigation purposes
2. Disable your NFC (Near Field Communications) or on Apple devices, iBeacon, unless you need them enabled for critical applications
3. Disable Bluetooth except when you are in your car, driving, if you want to have hands-free calls, if supported by your car
4. Verify Apps behavior and privacy risk BEFORE installing – do some research and ask the questions “why does this app need GPS, MICROPHONE, WEBCAM, CONTACTS, etc.?” – most apps don’t need these ports unless they want to invade your privacy. Find an alternative before installing risky Apps
Don’t feel bad if you’ve downloaded apps with malware or that require unnecessary permissions. The top 10 flashlight apps alone all require unnecessary permissions. It’s almost impossible to completely avoid these issues, but utilizing the information and strategies in this post will help you to be more aware of the risks make informed decisions when choosing your next apps.