Data & Privacy Part 2: Increase Your App Awareness
Do you have pages and pages of apps, many of which you installed for a random reason, used once, and have since forgotten about? You’re not alone.
When we last left off, we were talking about the first of Data Privacy Day’s three pillars: your personal information online. Today’s discussion will be a continuation of that, with a focus on your phone’s apps and how to keep them secure.
When the need arises, it’s not at all uncommon for people to visit their device app marketplace on a whim, install an app to meet that need, and never use it again. I admit, I’ve done it myself. But, what are the things that we need to be aware of when it comes to our apps and the associated risks?
What does that app really do?
So, you want to create an animated gif? Or, perhaps some sort of filter for your camera? Maybe you saw an ad for a game online that is right up your alley? Beyond wondering how that last ad was so tailored to your interests (see our last post), there are a few questions that you should ask before installing an app on your device.
- Who develops it: It’s not unheard of for malicious developers to impersonate other well-known apps. For instance, a fraudulent version of WhatsApp was downloaded more than one million times from the Google Play Store in 2017, compromising the devices of countless users. Always check the name of the developer of the app that you’re considering installing, and make sure that it is the true developer of what you are looking for.
- What permissions does it request: This may seem obvious, but if the photo editor that you just downloaded requires access to your contacts and messages, it would be wise to look further into it before granting those permissions. Always be wary if an app is asking for something that doesn’t make sense!
- No such thing as a free app: Okay, maybe that’s not true 100% of the time, but it’s still a good rule of thumb. If you’re not paying for your app, there is some reason that it’s free. Either it supports in-app purchases for its most interesting functions, or it is monetized via advertising or some other form of data collection. Keep this, along with the tips above, in mind when installing any apps that you don’t have to pay for.
Always be updating!
Security vulnerabilities are exploitable weaknesses in software that are an inherent part of any application and its ongoing development. Just because vulnerabilities exist however, doesn’t mean that bad things will happen, so there’s no need to panic. Once a developer identifies a vulnerability in their program, they will usually release an update to their software very quickly, and it’s extremely important to apply the update to any affected app as quickly as possible. It’s recommended to set your devices to update your apps automatically, as this ensures that they always are running the latest and most secure versions.
This also applies to your device’s operating system. Apple recently identified a set of three major vulnerabilities that were being actively exploited in iOS 14, their latest version. They promptly released a patch to fix the issue and we sent out a notice shortly thereafter, thanks to our partners at NortonLifelock™. This is a very recent and very real reminder of how important regular software updates are when it comes to keeping your devices secure.
TELUS Online Security: Keeping you safe in the worst case scenario
The practices that we’ve discussed above are just a few guiding principles that will help you to ensure that your mobile apps are not putting you in harm’s way. However, even when taking the utmost precaution, one can reduce the odds of falling victim to a malicious act significantly but never entirely. That’s why TELUS Online Security Powered by NortonLifelock™ offers you an added layer of protection, allowing you to breathe a bit easier the next time that you install a new app on your device. Check it out here, and please share any device protection tips that you have in the comments below!
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