Mobile Apps and Security

As always, HV Shred aims to provide valuable guidance to our  community on how to protect confidential data. These days, we use apps for everything from banking to listening to music to finding the best restaurant for lunch.  One thing we must consider in the process is the data we are sharing–even broadcasting as we take advantage of the tools provided by apps.

When we sign up with an app store or download individual apps, we may be asked for permission to let them access information on our device. Some apps may be able to access:

  • phone and email contacts
  • call logs
  • internet data
  • calendar data
  • data about the device’s location
  • the device’s unique IDs
  • information about how we use the app itself

Some apps access only the data they need to function; others access data that’s not related to the purpose of the app.

If we are providing information when using the device, someone may be collecting it – whether it’s the app developer, the app store, an advertiser, or an ad network. And if they’re collecting data, they may share it with other companies.

Spend some time verifying the extent to which downloading and using each app is sharing your information.  Consider what you know about who created the app and what it does. The app stores may include information about the company that developed the app, if the developer provides it. If the developer doesn’t provide contact information – like a website or an email address – the app may be less than trustworthy.

Android operating system users have an opportunity to read the “permissions” just before installing an app. Read them. It’s useful information that tells what information the app will access on our devices. Ask whether the permissions make sense given the purpose of the app; for example, there’s no reason for an e-book or “wallpaper” app to read text messages.

Apps are tools for tremendous convenience but also need to be implemented judiciously.

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by HV Shred