App Safety And User Privacy

Haseeb Awan
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October 24, 2022
Modified On
April 5, 2023

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Modified On
April 5, 2023

As a result of allowing apps to permeate every aspect of our lives, we must be ready for the use of the exact gates by entities with malicious intent. Fighting them is possible; however, we must be fully conscious of their potentially harmful attacks. There are three steps to take in order to decrease users' worries about mobile security and encourage them to use your app. To protect your mobile privacy, you must first learn what to avoid. Second, you must address any security issues that might arise for users. Third, inform them that you have taken command and that they will be safe. After all, it is your responsibility to protect their data.

Nearly all Americans feel they have "lost control" over how their data is collected and shared, even though more than half of Americans are concerned about their online security and privacy. Because of this, many people give up and wave the white flag in the direction of what they see as the unfairly favoured internet Goliaths. Fewer than 10% of us feel "very confident" that social media companies protect our data, even though most of us use social networking sites in some capacity.

We frequently hear about data breaches and see targeted ads that are eerily well-timed, making it challenging to trust businesses to be especially mindful of our data. More than a third of people believe they have no control over how apps use their data, although most individuals want to take additional steps to protect their privacy. Even before they start the battle, they have already lost.

Most people are not very familiar with or knowledgeable concerning this data privacy and online security stuff. Because it can be overwhelming, many people choose to traverse their fingers rather than prepare a defence plan. It would be best if you consider this guide to user privacy and user safety as a wake-up call to the realities of the online world. Not so much to scare you—there are already plenty of people who use that tactic—but rather to arm you with knowledge, resources, and practice guidelines, so you have a chance.

Why Do Websites Track Me?

Have you ever been browsing the internet, even on your home computer, and then checked Facebook on your mobile phone to find an advertisement for what you were browsing? You might wonder if your phone is listening to you as a result of that experience.

Have you ever made an online purchase and returned to the same website a month later only to find the brand recommending items identical to what you already bought?

Ever gotten into your vehicle and discovered that, despite having nothing scheduled for the day on your iPhone calendar, you were informed that it would take 12 minutes to get to the gym? Say what? I went to the gym, but how does my phone know that? That is so creepy right now.

What's happening is clever, emerging marketing. The primary goal of all this data gathering and tracking is to personalize advertisements so businesses can focus more of their marketing efforts on groups of people they understand are already interested in their goods rather than broad audiences who aren't likely to be interested. Why not, then? They may be able to save more money as a result, and you will see less irrelevant advertising.

It's All About The Money When It Comes To Tracking You Down

According to RSA, a global cybersecurity company, only 29% of people in 2018, down from 31% in 2017, believed that all of this data collection results in better products and services. It appears that those marketing strategies are fading in popularity. Perhaps as a result of the fact that 45% of respondents from the United States claim to have experienced a data leakage in the previous five years. They are tired of businesses mishandling their data. Only 22% of consumers stated that they would be ready to divulge personal information to enhance their experiences.

Even though businesses, web apps, social media platforms, retailers, and other entities are all "watching," gathering and evaluating your behaviour patterns and info for marketing reasons, they aren't always guarding your data. And to make matters worse, very few consumers know the purposes or recipients of the data breadcrumbs they leave behind. We don't read data privacy policies, and we probably wouldn't understand them even though we did.

What Personal Information Do Websites Track?

More than just your name, address, and phone number are included in your online data. This is the scary part. It is a database of personal data that is constantly expanding and may contain the following:

Shopping & Online Activity

  • If your username and password are not encrypted, you've ever used every credit or debit card number.
  • Every website you've ever been to, along with the length of time you spent on each page
  • Each item you've ever purchased, along with its size, price, and type, per store

Social Media

  • Every single person you've ever sent over or received an email from 
  • Every single friend and follower you have on all of your social media accounts
  • All the photos and posts you've ever liked or commented on.

Smart Devices

  • What you drive and where you've been driving
  • When you set and end the alarm on your phone
  • Whenever you unlock and lock your entryways and activate and deactivate your security alarm
  • The preferred temperature in your home during which times of the year

Media Usage & Online Shopping

  • Those coupons that you clip
  • What you enjoy watching and listening to on TV, in movies, and music

Fitness and Health-Related Activity

  • How long and what types of exercises you do, if any,
  • Your size, weight, and height
  • Your eating routine, including how frequently you order in and dine out
  • What medical conditions have you looked into
  • Which medications do you buy

Additional Personal Data

  • Your partner's name, children's names, and pet names
  • Every single place you've ever worked, along with the duration of your employment there
  • Your level of income
  • Where and how much you donate, if at all
  • where you commute daily to and from
  • The places you visit and the sums you spend while travelling

Well, that was quite eye-opening. What's worse, all of this data—your data—is a commodity that is frequently gathered and offered for sale to other parties who also want a part of you. Even those who are aware of the full scope of the information gathered often don't care because they don't know what they don't know. They think it is inevitable and impossible to avoid being tracked online. Even though all of this data gathering makes me uncomfortable, it usually doesn't do much harm.

Privacy Settings for Mobile Apps

Understanding an app's privacy settings is crucial. When you download, apps frequently request authorization to access personal data like contact information, your location, or perhaps even your camera. In order for the app to function, they might need this information, but they might also give it to other businesses.

Before Installing an App

Here are some steps you can take to effectively protect your privacy before installing an app:

  • Utilize authorized app stores. Downloading apps from unofficial sources, such as the app store provided by your device's maker or operating system, will help you avoid installing potentially harmful apps. Before installing an app, look up the developer.
  • Understand what data the app will have access to. Read the privacy statement of an app before downloading it to learn how it will use your data and whether it will be shared. How will the app share your data? Is the policy vague? Find another app if it is or if you're uncomfortable with how your data might be shared.
  • Scrutinize the permissions. Apps require your permission to access data such as your location or contacts and tools such as your camera and microphone. You may be asked to grant permission when you initially download the application or when the app attempts to access that data or feature. Keep an eye out for the permissions the application demands. Does it require access to your physical location or photos to carry out its duties, for instance?

Your Privacy On Existing Mobile Applications

There are still steps you can take to safeguard your information if an app has been installed on your smartphone or tablet:

Take A Look At The App's Permissions:

Check the permissions in your settings to ensure sure the app doesn't have access to data or features it doesn't require. Disable any unused permissions. Apps that ask for a lot of access permission might be deleted because they aren't necessary for the app to function. Pay close attention to mobile applications that access your contact information, storage, camera, microphone, and location.  

Limit Access To Locations:

The location services on your device are accessible to some apps. Consider limiting an app's access to your geolocation so that it is only available when it is actively being used.

Don't Use Your Social Network Account To Log Into Apps Automatically:

 Using your social network login credentials to frequently sign in to an app enables the app to access data from your social media network account. If you disagree, sign in with your email address and a different password.

Maintain App Updates:

 Apps with outdated software could be vulnerable to hacking. You can safeguard your device from malware by updating your apps as soon as they're available. Remove any apps you don't use. If you aren't using an app, uninstall it to prevent pointless data collection.

How Can You Protect Your Device Against Potential Threats?

The following additional best practices must be used to protect your mobile device:

  • Stay away from unsecured WiFi networks. On your tablets or smartphones, disable the automatic WiFi connection feature. Public hotspots are not protected, and users should avoid connecting to them because doing so exposes their devices to numerous risks. Avoid logging into banking apps or financial services if connecting is required. Using a VPN to secure the data online is also a good idea.
  • Install apps only from reputable stores. According to google's 2016 android security review, the main threat to android users is still potentially harmful apps (PHA). Always download from reputable sources because some third-party mobile apps are more likely to contain malicious apps. Additionally, users should exercise due diligence and verify any reviews or comments made on the app page to ensure that they are accurate. Users of popular gaming apps and mobile payment systems should also exercise caution, as they have historically been sought-after targets for cybercriminals.
  • The dangers of jailbreaking and rooting. To safeguard the devices and data of users, manufacturers impose security constraints and protections on their products. These restrictions are lifted by jailbreaking or rooting, making the system more susceptible to computer viruses and other risks.
  • Be wary of calls or messages you didn't ask for. Attorneys employ various techniques to persuade users to install or download malware or divulge personal information. Before opening any emails, texts, or calls from unknown senders, scan or verify the source.
  • Configure mobile devices with automatic locks. Make sure the mobile phone locks itself and contains a strong passcode—a swipe password or basic pattern isn't very effective as a deterrent. A strong password effectively prevents access to personal information if a device is stolen or lost. The convenience of unlocking the device is significantly increased, and the security is made more difficult to breach through biometric identification features like fingerprint scanners and facial recognition.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you give apps and websites. Sometimes, providing personal information seems necessary to sign up for a new service or install a new app. Avoid giving out too much information, and before using any website or application, check to see how secure it is.
  • Control what you share online. Use the privacy options on social media sites and apps. Some websites stream live locations, phone numbers, emails,  and other information to the public. Additionally, users could benefit from multi-layered mobile security solutions that can shield devices from online threats, malicious software, and even data loss.
  • Delete any apps you are not using. Do you have any phone apps that you haven't used in a while? Aside from saving space, disposing of them prevents them from continuing to gather information about you. However, before you start throwing them away all at once, log onto the app's developer's website and delete any accounts you may have. For instance, uninstalling the foursquare app does not cut off your relationship with the business.
  • Consider your options before downloading a new app. It pays extra caution when installing apps on your phone, just as you would with your computer's software. In general, you're better off using the google play store than a mysterious third-party website, even though there's no way to know for sure if an app was made primarily to gather data or, worse, to spread malware that has the potential to steal passwords, logins, and financial account information.
  • Apple's app store is the only option available to iPhone owners. According to Justin Brookman, CR's director of technology policy, apple and google both mandate that app developers disclose readily available privacy policies, and developers are obligated by the terms in those guidelines under consumer protection laws. Consider online alternatives if you don't intend to use an app repeatedly. 
  • Reduce app permissions. Any time an app requests access to your phone's microphone, fitness trackers, health information, camera, calendar, location, contacts, built-in messaging, storage,  or call features, you should generally be wary.
  • You can block some of these intrusions with the help of the settings below.
  • Just be aware that they aren't flawless. Wireless carriers, as well as the operating systems android and iOS, continue to gather user data. Additionally, advertisers and other parties can track your whereabouts via bluetooth, wifi, and cellular signals even though you turn off geolocation data on your 
  • Disable network connections or bluetooth. While the wifi/mobile network and bluetooth connections on your smartphone make it simple to transmit information between devices, they also increase the risk that anyone in the vicinity of your phone, which is connected to the same network, could easily access your data.
  • Turning off these settings is especially important if you're with friends or in public settings where other users may be present to protect your information from these types of threats (such as in an airport).
  • Toggle off the slider buttons for each of these settings by going to settings > connections > mobile hotspot and tethering.

We hope you will find these settings useful in keeping your private folders and files, and other information private. The suggestions mentioned above can help make your mobile less intrusive while being used in public or even prevent other users from prying, despite the fact that it may be beneficial to create secure access to every feature or app on your device.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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