Despite many advancements in app store security, the abundance of third-party applications makes it almost impossible to assess each and every app for malware and viruses. Hackers and other nefarious individuals are developing craftier ways to make you into the latest victim of their hacks. So how can you use apps safely? In this article we look at some simple steps to ensure your data and finances don’t get compromised.
The Risks of Using Apps
According to Consolidated Technologies, almost three-quarters of all apps would fail a basic security test, and that security vulnerabilities were found in 91% of iOS apps and 95% in Android apps.
Your phone will keep track of any and all information that you knowingly and unknowingly input. Should you come into contact with malicious software, hackers can access your personal IDs, passwords, messages and even financial accounts.
The level of security can vary depending on which operating system you have, for example, Androids are more likely to be susceptible to apps with malware than Apple as the iOS ecosystem is very tightly controlled and limits the number of third-party apps to increase the overall security of the App Store.
Alongside having access to this information, malware can also damage your phone’s hardware, AVG states that a hacked phone can display symptoms of a drop in performance, an increased temperature, a weaker battery, unexpected pop-ups, calls, texts and apps, and in some extreme cases, bill charges.
How to Prevent This
So how can you protect yourself from having your phone damaged and prevent your personal and financial information from being exposed?
Check Third Party Reviews and Downloads
First, and perhaps most obviously, is to properly check the reviews and ratings of apps. Use them both in conjunction with one another as each can be inflated by fake reviews and ratings. Therefore, you should remain suspicious of an app that has a five-star rating but little to no reviews.
Another barometer to test the legitimacy of an app is checking how many downloads it has – a higher download figure means that it is more likely to be legitimate and also increases the chances that people may have left reviews.
Check Who Made the App
If you are not convinced by ratings and reviews alone, you can find the name of the developer below the name of the app and conduct a search of the developer to assess their level of trustworthiness; if they have created numerous apps it increases the likelihood that they are a reputable developer.
Checking the providence of your app is particularly important when downloading ones that require financial transactions. For example, freemium games like Candy Crush that require micro payments to unlock higher levels, or gambling apps like the 888 casino app, are due added scrutiny before you accept them. Make sure that when you start inputting financial information like bank card details it is over a secure connection and with a safe 3rd party payment provider that is properly integrated with the casino platform. Furthermore, gambling is a regulated activity in most countries and another way to stay safe is to check to see that the operator whose product you are downloading has a license to take bets. That would be issued by the UK Gambling Commission in the UK for example.
Check Your Apps’. Permissions Regularly
Another way to test the legitimacy of an app is to check the app permissions. Essentially, an app should not be accessing something beyond its boundaries, for example, apps like Snapchat should be expected to be granted access to your camera roll and microphone, but an app which has no relation to the permissions that it is asking for is usually a sign of a fake or malicious app.
To check the permissions of an app on an Android, before you download it, scroll down to find “Permission details” to see the different permissions that it is asking for. Alternatively, you can check the permissions of an app that has already been downloaded by searching for app permissions in your settings. From here you can revoke certain permissions for all of your apps, but be wary that this could end up breaking the app in some capacity.
Similarly on iOS, you can enter the settings to check what permissions an app has access to. Alongside asking for access to push notifications, you can revoke an app’s access to your contacts, location and camera via the “Privacy” menu within the settings.
Do Regular Audits of All Apps on Your Phone
Moreover, you should regularly monitor which apps you no longer use; an app which has not been updated in a long period of time will be more prone to security issues, which could end up leaving your phone exposed to malware and viruses.
Simply deleting the app from your phone would resolve this problem, but you should also be aware that accounts that have been created on these apps will still continue to exist. Any personal data regarding your contact details or location will live on in these accounts, and therefore runs the risk of being exposed to bad actors.
A good tip would be to ensure that you have removed any accounts associated with an app that you want to delete before removing the app from your phone.
Almost all services we use online now have an associated app and almost all of us are happy to use them day to day. But that doesn’t mean they don’t come without risks, which are magnified when personal or financial data is concerned. But you can mitigate against these risks quite easily by following the simple steps in this article. Remember to be careful and be safe to avoid unnecessary trauma.