How often do you download new apps to your smartphone? Many of us will download an app every time we find ourselves on a train platform or stuck on a long car journey. We think nothing of adding more software to our phones because it’s either free or too cheap to make us reconsider. Add an unlimited data plan and you have modern phones with over 60 apps on them. Many of us also assume that someone else is responsible for quality control. In other words, if we download an app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store, we expect that app to be secure and safe to use. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are tricks app developers use to abuse their users. Here are three things that you need to keep in mind every time you find your thumb hovering over the install button.
When you install a new app on your smartphone, you have to give it permission to access some system features. In theory, this means that only apps that have your permission to access data will be able to do so. In practice, some apps are able to piggyback off the access that has been granted to other apps and access data that you have denied them permission for. It is also important to consider whether you trust the developer of an app or not, or whether they have a reputation that you can trust. For example, Facebook, that most trustworthy of businesses, bought up a little-known VPN company by the name of Onavo. Facebook then began to offer the VPN app to users of Android and Apple devices under the pretense of improving users' privacy and security while browsing the internet. While the app did function as a VPN, what Facebook failed to disclose was that they were collecting all of the data passing through their VPN servers. This somewhat undermines the notion that this app is improving users’ privacy. Most free apps are are often involved in global ad fraud rings, botnets or just plain old user data stealing. Some security analysts advise users to prevent apps from unknown vendors from running in the background to minimize the exposure to potential data leaking or other abuse. Of course, there are various ways to protect your sensitive data like VPNs or proxies. More about that you can find on Proxyway blog.
Given that most people are online most of the day and mobile data is so cheap these days, app developers think nothing of pushing out regular updates for their products. This does have its advantages. For example, it means that developers can rapidly address any serious security issues that are reported to them. To some extent, users also demand that developers occasionally refresh their interfaces and give their apps a makeover to avoid becoming stale. However, users are also becoming increasingly aggravated by the number of downloads that they have to perform every day. While these downloads might happen automatically and in the background, their effect is felt in a reduction in battery life, an increase in data usage, and a reduction in storage space available. What’s surprising about all of this is the fact that Kevin Kelly stated in his book “The Inevitable” – the average lifespan of an app is under 30 days, and that was in 2016! What it means is that apps are constantly evolving, changing and require massive investments to upkeep.
One of the reasons that every business seems to have an app these days is because they are an easy way of opening a new revenue stream. Even for businesses that cannot sell directly to their customers through that app, their apps can provide a canvas upon which marketers can project whatever they like. There are a great many apps available on both Android and iOS that are sustained through the money they make from advertising. There are also many apps that offer users a free ad-supported version or the option of paying for a premium account and not having to see ads anymore. If you are someone who is running on quite a tight budget when it comes to your mobile data, you should consider the extra load that a video advert in an app will produce. You might be paying more for your mobile data than an ad-free version of the app might cost. Advertising fraud is also a serious issue, and one of the more common forms it can take is an unscrupulous advertiser loading up multiple adverts at once, although the user is only aware of one. By having several video adverts load simultaneously, the advertiser is able to make more money despite not really having shown the ads to anyone. The business that is being advertised loses out because they've paid to have their advert displayed off-screen. And the user themselves is ultimately hurt because they have to shoulder the data cost of loading those extra videos.
When it comes to cybersecurity, you are the only person that you should trust. It is all too easy for a malicious app developer to set up a bot network to leave glowing reviews on their malicious app. This can rapidly create the impression that an app is the hot new thing and is rising through the charts because of a surging interest. However, you should always look past the reviews and what the developers themselves say to you and consider each app in the same way. If it starts asking for permissions that it doesn't need, don't grant them. If you notice that your data usage has spiked unexpectedly after installing a new app, try deleting it and seeing if the problem persists. As long as you are careful, you can download apps with confidence. Just don't fall into the trap of assuming that something in an official app store cannot be malicious.