Mobile Phone Apps Secretly Stealing Data

by Melissa Craib

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

App installing on phone taken by Edinburgh PR agency

MOBILE device users are being urged to take caution when downloading apps onto their phones or tablets.

The warning, from cyber security advisers at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), comes after it has emerged Scots are unwittingly giving access to data stored on their devices to apps they have downloaded.

Apps have surged in popularity following the proliferation of smart phones and can be used across a wide range of tasks including gaming, social media, admin, dating and current affairs.

However the SBRC has noted that more and more apps are starting to contain malware or requests to access personal data such as the newly discovered Red Alert Trojan which can hijack SMS messages, steal log-in credentials and even log or block incoming calls.

Gerry Grant, Chief Ethical Hacker at the SBRC, said: “To ensure that you don’t give an app access to any unnecessary data it is important to read what permissions it is requesting. Before granting it permission ask yourself whether it is relevant to the apps’ functionality.

“It is also important to note that there are free and paid versions of applications available. Adverts are common with free applications and are one of the main causes of malware being downloaded onto the device.

“However after taking all precautions if you are still unhappy with any application, you always can uninstall it from your device.”

As there are various operating systems the way an app is downloaded and requests permission is different for each device and so it is easy to get confused. When an app requests further data not granted by default you have to agree to give access to that information.

In order to stay safe it is important to know what each permission is requesting access to. Most apps will ask permission to ‘Modify, delete and read storage’, this allows it to access storage on your device to save and edit temporary log files.

However, sometimes an app will request permission to access ‘Device accounts’. This may not be something you want to allow as it gives them permission to accounts and the data stored in these accounts without having to ask you each time.

Tips for safer handling of apps –

  • Read the comment section before downloading the application. It will help identify if the app contains nuisance or malware.
  • Always read the permissions it is requesting.
  • Application settings can always be changed either on your device or through the app store.
  • Go to the settings and security and make sure that “Unknown Sources” is turned off.
  • You can always uninstall it if you are unhappy with it.

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