Smartphone Security: When Apps Attack

These days it seems like your whole life is on your phone. Here are some tips to keep it safe.
Smartphone Security: When Apps Attack
A lot of apps request permission to access your location services or your contact lists. Make sure you pay attention to what it is asking you to access.

As a contractor, you and your employees or co-workers probably use your smartphones for everything these days. Routing, scheduling, billing – it can all be done in the palm of your hand.

But various mobile phone applications can have creepware or malware invading your privacy, tracking your every move and stealing information off your phone. You can’t let your business or personal information be compromised.

Malware is software that purposely damages or disables your device. Your phone could be hijacked and your information stolen. Creepware is software designed to spy, allowing someone to track your location and even your keystrokes.

Free flashlight apps have been notorious for containing spyware that collects information from your phone that the app creator then sells to a third party, which allows the creator to give you the app for free.

But don't panic. Not every app is “out to get you.” Being careful about what you download can make all the difference.

The Apple Store and Google Play Store are getting stricter about app submissions. Applications for the iPhone can’t transmit private data unless the user is made aware of how and where the data will be used and the app obtains permission from the user. Android apps don’t undergo quite as much scrutiny when submitted, but creators are banned if there are complaints about their apps invading privacy. Only download apps from the Apple Store, Google Play Store or Amazon Appstore so you know they’ve been through some sort of screening process.

Delete apps you don’t use. Deleting an app that has possibly compromised your phone might not be enough, however. Malware can be left behind when an app is deleted. You should keep your phone backed up so if something happens, you don’t lose all your information.

Do your research

Bryon Black, web and app developer for COLE Publishing, recommends checking to see if you can contact a company or developer before you download an app. It’s a good sign if contact information is listed somewhere. And only enter personal data or payment information in applications you absolutely trust.

While regular security on your phone doesn’t protect it against malware, you should still check all your security settings and make sure there aren’t any permissions enabled that you don’t know about. Basic security that is often overlooked but a very good idea: turn on the passcode or pattern code on your phone, Black says. And know how to turn off your phone’s location services.

A lot of apps request permission to access your location services or your contact lists. Make sure you pay attention to what it is asking you to access.

Black stresses the importance of looking at privacy risks and permissions before downloading an app. “Find out what it’s doing. Any data transmission should be disclosed ­– and transmitted securely,” he says.

It’s helpful to read reviews of apps before installing them so you know what you’re downloading. “It’s really about common sense and what you’re comfortable with downloading,” Black says. “Wait to download new apps until you can read some reviews. If it’s an older app with no reviews, or only one or two, I wouldn’t download it.

“It seems like a huge hassle to research the app and see how reputable it is, when it takes only seconds to just install it. But it’s worth the time and you can save yourself a lot of trouble in the long run.”


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