Are Your Mobile Apps Up To No Good?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Robert Siciliano

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Most of us have heard the saying “It’s 2am, what are your kids doing?” and you may know, but do you know what your mobile apps are doing?

I know before I started working in the industry, I would not have given a second thought to this, but consider this.

Why would an app designed to monitor your mobile’s battery need to know your location via your GPS? How come some gaming applications ask users for their phone numbers? Mobile applications, especially free ones, require some level of your personal data in order to supplement development costs. This means “free” isn’t exactly free.

Unsurprisingly 97% of users don’t understand how permissions correspond to the risk of an app. The consequences of not knowing is once you share your personal data, it now can be use and sometimes abused and is out of your control forever.

Check out this infographic (click image to enlarge)…

Do You Know What Your Apps Are Doing?

If it’s digital then that means it’s also “repeatable” and can be copied, pasted, duplicated and sent an infinite amount of times. For example 18.3 million US adult Smartphone owners have looked up medical information.  32.5 million US adult Smartphone owners access banking information. Using applications that don’t care much about your privacy can expose this data.

Android applications can ask for 124 types of permissions and with these permissions someone can turn on your camera, monitor or modify or even kill outgoing calls, record images of your screen while you enter personal information, monitor and view texts or pictures and even scarier capture conversations in the room when no call is active!!

What’s troubling is 33% of apps ask for more permissions than they need, 42% of users don’t know what these permissions are and 83% of users don’t pay attention to permissions when installing an app. This all adds up to needing to know what your apps are doing.

To help you protect your privacy and identity when using apps you should:

  • Research apps by checking their ratings and reviews before you download
  • Only download apps from reputable apps stores
  • Read the Terms of Service (TOS) to determine what data the app is going to access on your mobile device.

Use comprehensive  mobile security app with app privacy features, such as McAfee Mobile Security, that will provide insight into the activity and safety of your apps

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)

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