Apr 25, 2014

Are Apps Threatening Your Device's Security?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
There are apps to track your dog, an app for smoking (Fake Smoker) and apps to teach you how to play an instrument. Think about all those inexpensive apps you download onto your device for fun. They can help you in so many ways, but what do they get in return? What are your apps doing with, or to, your personal information?

Once you accept the terms of the application you are downloading, information about your profile is captured. Most people don’t read the fine print, but within that document you are granting the app developer permission to use and possibly sell your demographic data, social media habits, shopping habits and even your contact list. In a recent study by Zscaler’s VP of Security, 92 percent of the top 25 social networking apps request access to user’s address books.

What makes your cell phone vulnerable? Security measures, such as firewalls, encryption and antivirus software are not commonly utilized on portable devices, according to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Operating systems on those devices are also not updated as often as on a personal computer. Social networking applications for your portable devices seldom follow the privacy controls that you may have on your PC and most people believe that searching the Internet on the cell phone is completely safe.

Attacks on portable devices are becoming more and more intelligent, targeting commonly used apps such as email, calendars, contact information and passwords on your device. Until legislation enforces changes that regulate the ability for these application developers to capture and ‘sell’ your information, the only way to protect yourself is to change your habits.

Portability: Cell phones are small, easily lost or stolen. Install a password or a screen lock on your device, anything to deter a criminal from accessing your information.

Scams: Do not open text messages, emails or any electronic message received from unknown sources.

Oversharing: Each time you access a shared network you are leaving yourself open to threat. Consider if you truly need to access the Internet at every single café or if it is just for convenience purposes.

Change passwords frequently: The ‘token’ that is given to the third party application developer when you download a new app may capture your sign-on information. After installing a new third party application, promptly change your password. Better yet, put reminders on your calendar to change your password every three months.

Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi: There are different levels of Bluetooth accessibility. Most operate in module 1, which allows your device to connect to any other Bluetooth or wireless device before authentication. You run the risk of someone tapping in to your data.

Nothing Like a Good Offense: People do not realize their personal information has been stolen or is being used by someone until it is too late. LifeLock’s identity theft protection scans for identity threats and notifies you of potential use of your personal information immediately. This allows you the time to notify all other owners of your personal information, such as banks, schools, lenders, that you have experienced a potential threat and you want to make them aware. Being proactive is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting your identity.
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