Staying Safe While Using Mobile Applications

mobile apps
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

There is not much you cannot do on a mobile phone these days. Almost anything can be done while on the go, but with all of that accessibility comes a price. That price is safety. Mobile Applications help users do everything from order a pizza to deposit checks. However, the dark side of all of this convenience is the risk users are placed in when the security of the mobile applications are taken for granted. In fact, studies show that many mobile applications are unsafe and put the user at risk for identity theft.  Some of these applications include those for banks and major corporations.

Risks Associated with Mobile Applications

There are many risks associated with the usage of mobile applications.  Some of the more prominent ones are:

  • Malware: Malware is software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. A smartphone is much like a mini computer so it makes sense that the risk of malware to computers is present on smartphones as well. Malware can take many forms including Trojan horses, viruses, worms and others.  This software opens up a mobile device to install things such as key logging software, spyware, botnets and other nasty things. These programs are often used to obtain personal information which can then be used for the financial gain of the criminals who have installed them.
  • Metadata: Meta data is data about data. For instance, when a picture is taken with a digital product (like a smartphone), there is the information which will produce the image for others to view. However, in the image file there is also information about that image such as where it was taken, when it was taken and information on the device which took it. Criminals can use this information to track consumers.
  • Application (App) Scams: There seems to be an application that will do just about anything these days. Some of these apps are developed by criminals who are hoping users will download the application which will allow them access to the smartphone’s system as well as any information the user provides, such as a credit card number or social security number.
  • Insecure Applications (Apps): Recent studies show that even legitimate applications can allow sensitive information to be exposed to criminals looking for such information. Some of these applications include banking institutions and major retailers.

Protecting Yourself from the Risks of Mobile Applications

While it may seem like a scary world out there for those who want the convenience of mobile apps, there are ways to protect yourself.  Knowing that you have taken preventative measures should ease a bit of the concern. Some things you can do to protect yourself from the risks of mobile apps are:

  • Install an anti-virus software program that protects against spyware and malware as well. Make sure this software is reputable and is kept current through frequent updates.
  • Enroll in a backup program which also provides the capability for your phone to be wiped.  This will help protect the information on your phone should it become infected by malware.
  • Research apps to determine if they are safe before downloading them. Look at who developed the app. For most large companies the company should be the developer themselves. If the app is new, or not well known, do a quick Google search to see if there are any reviews of the app.
  • Review what information you are allowing the application access to when you accept the terms and permissions. Make sure that the amount of information you are allowing the app to have access to is only the information it will need to perform its intended function.
  • Turn geolocation and GPS off when it is not immediately needed. This can easily be done through the privacy settings on your smartphone. This will keep your location from being broadcasted unintentionally through picture uploads, tweets, etc.
  • Do not root or jailbreak your phone.  This makes it much more susceptible to malware.

Steps to Take if You Become a Victim

Prevention is key, when remaining safe from malware on smartphones.

  • If you have an antivirus installed on the phone, the detection and removal of any malware should be simple and the antivirus software will perform the task for you.
  • If you are unable to remove the malware then a backup program with wiping capability will be incredibly helpful. All information should be wiped from the phone and the backup information can be downloaded to a new phone.
  • If you believe that sensitive personal information has been compromised than you should take appropriate action to protect yourself from identity theft.
Get Private Wifi   Protect your personal information.
Get DataCompress   Cut your mobile data usage.

Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.

1 Response

  1. April 17, 2012

    […] this very website has previously reported, there is “a dark side” to mobile app security, and if you believe that sensitive personal information has been […]