THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
I don’t have to tell you that smartphones are very, very popular. Apps are the engine that drives the popularity of smartphones. There is seemingly an app for anything you want to do. The majority of apps are free, as in do not cost you money. However, is there anything that is really TOTALLY free? As the old tech saying goes, “If the app is free, then the user is the product.”
Most people don’t do much research before they download an app. They may read the first one or two sentences describing what the app does. If it sounds good, they download the app. I ask that you slow down and consider the risks of that cool new FREE app. The real price of an app may be diminished privacy and safety. Here are a few of the risks associated with apps.
Just like with a regular computer, malware (malicious software\viruses) can infect your smartphone. A smartphone is basically a handheld computer. Malware could steal personal data from your phone, install key logging software or add your phone to a botnet.
Metadata is data about data, it describes a data file. For example, you are on vacation and take a picture with your smartphone. You post the picture online. In order to properly display the picture so it can be viewed, there is data within the file that allows it to be formatted properly. Also, there is data contained within the file about where the picture was taken and the date and time it was taken. Depending on how much information you have already shared online, crooks may be able to get your address. Now with this picture information, they know you are away on vacation. People have had their houses robbed. It does not happen often, but it does happen.
The purpose of every app is not to help you do something. Criminals create apps under the guise of helping you do something, but the MAIN underlying purpose for the app is to steal your personal information. Once you download and install the app, the app will have access to your phone. This access could include access to your contacts, credit card information, social security number and other account information.
I am not talking about “butt dialing” accidentally. Without asking you, some apps may dial numbers or send text messages. Apps may scan your contacts for email addresses and then send spam to all of your contacts.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BAD APPS
I know. It always seems like the bad guys are one or even two steps ahead of the good guys. Here are some things you can do to minimize your apps risk.
Research apps before you download them. Look for reviews and any problems or concerns regarding the app you are thinking about downloading. Take a close look at the details\permissions page of the app to see what level of access it wants to your phone and information.
Install an anti-virus software program that checks for viruses AND spyware. Avast, AVG and Norton Security Deluxe are worth taking a look at. Whatever you use, please keep it up to date. New malware is created daily.
Make sure you can track your phone if it is lost or stolen and make sure you can remotely wipe your phone. If your phone does not come with these features, research 3rd party programs that have these capabilities.
Keep an eye on permissions. There may be instances when an app may want more permissions than it did when originally installed. Take a look at MyPermissions.org. MyPermissions will scan your phone and rate each of your apps based on how much access it wants. If an app wants more permissions than you are comfortable with, you have to weigh the cost versus benefit of using that app.
Make sure GPS and geolocation are turned off. Turn them back on when needed. Doing this will keep your location private.