Much of our activity today revolves around mobile apps. We use mobile apps for everything from hailing cabs to ordering food. We even trust them to handle our payment information and identity documentation. Businesses, as well, are turning more and more to mobile solutions for much of their correspondence and practical needs.
For this reason, it is more important than ever to make sure we are using apps that are protected against malware, hackers, and other malicious threats we face online. With sensitive info like payment information, bad actors are waiting to scrape your data and empty your bank account. Many non-secure mobile apps can actually help them do it.
Understanding the risks that come with mobile app usage is one of the best ways of mitigating these threats. Understanding how mobile apps make us vulnerable, and how different methods of protecting ourselves can offer us security when using mobile apps. There are a few rules of thumb that smartphone users can follow to help curb the number of threats they face when using mobile apps.
Understanding The Risks
There are a range of factors that make mobile apps insecure. One of the top concerns is the fact that phones are with you everywhere you go. Something as simple as leaving your phone unprotected in a public place can cause you to be targeted by bad actors, who can steal or illicitly access your phone. Another huge security risk that goes hand-in-hand with this aspect is the validity of third-party apps.
Just like you connect through all sorts of third-party networks when you use your phone out and about, you also use a wide range of third-party apps to do basically anything on a smartphone these days. If these apps do not employ adequate security features for handling your sensitive data, it can be very easy for bad actors to compromise your device, and steal your data, by exploiting some of the known vulnerabilities that many apps have.
On top of the risk posed by a lack of security features, there is also the risk of malicious software. This is designed specifically to undermine the security of your device. It can be a very serious problem if you store sensitive data on your phone. Malware can automatically send information to hackers and other bad actors. It can even do things like hijack your device’s processor for illicit activities. This type of risk is especially great with jailbroken, or otherwise modified firmware.
Real Life Examples
One of the best ways to demonstrate the reality of mobile app security is to examine real-life scenarios. These are situations in which using an insecure app on your phone can lead to data loss or other unfortunate outcomes. There are a variety of real-world situations where mobile app security comes into play. These can be difficult to predict, so having an examined understanding of these risks is important.
Scenario 1: Using your mobile phone to check your bank balance when you’re out and about.
Being able to check your bank balance with a mobile app can be very convenient, but many people are not aware of the risks involved with doing so.
When using your actual mobile network to connect, there are a variety of ways that malicious actors can spy on your connection, and steal sensitive data to access your account. Using a security measure, such as a VPN, can help mitigate this risk. VPN services encrypt your connection and send it through a special server for added security.
Scenario 2: Insecure mobile apps can employ insecure in-app purchases
Many apps offer extra features for paid subscribers and incorporate payment methods to allow users to make purchases through the app. This is all very convenient, but it opens your payment information up to a number of vulnerabilities, like the ones described above.
Even though in-app purchases are typically handled through Google Pay or Apple Pay, there are still ways in which an improperly secured mobile app can make these payments vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors. For example, by handling the payments through less secure protocols than Apple or Google pay. This is another area where employing extra security measures, such as a VPN, can come in handy.
Scenario 3: Downloading malicious software.
Whether you’re simply clicking through files online, or accessing vast amounts of media for various purposes, the possibility of accidentally downloading malware is ever present on the internet. Mobile phones can be especially vulnerable to malware infection, depending on the security considerations taken by their users. It is easy to find and install new apps with just a few touches. This means it is unlikely that everybody takes the time to think about what they are actually putting on their phone, and what those apps have access to. Many mobile phones also do not have very good anti-virus protection. This can make things even worse.
With jailbroken or modified phones, there is a high possibility that downloading seemingly harmless software or mobile apps, actually undermines the security of your system. This is due to the unofficial nature of the firmware and other elements of the jailbreaking process. Downloading a good antivirus scanner for your phone, or even using a mobile VPN equipped with a malware shield, is a good way to mitigate this risk.
Ways of Ensuring Mobile App Security
Now we understand the risks and a few different strategies to protect against them, we can start to wrap our heads around ways of securing our mobile apps. Many popular apps can be easily trusted to secure our data, since we know they are developed by trusted companies. However, others can be less scrupulous. Taking specific steps to safeguard ourselves will help keep our mobile devices safe and our identities secure.
Practice Safe Browsing: A poor understanding of how the internet and mobile app software works can make you a target for scammers and malware distributors. Going about your business without bothering to research the apps you’re using or the services you’re paying for, you will be easily taken advantage of, and compromised.
Safe browsing includes being very careful about the websites you visit. Make sure to never give any information about yourself to an untrusted source. Always read the information you agree to and the details of files you download. This stuff may sound basic to some readers, but careful browsing is an important foundation that lays the groundwork for greater mobile app security.
Always Do Your Homework: Properly research the apps you use and the various permissions they request on your devices. If you install an app, and it asks you for access to things like your payment info, call logs, or other data, always make sure you trust the app before you agree. Seemingly harmless apps can obtain permissions for illicit purposes if you aren’t paying attention.
Use a VPN: Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are third-party programs that work through encrypted protocols and special servers for added security. Using a VPN, you can ensure that your data transfers and connections are encrypted, and protected from malware and bad actors.
One of the best VPNs on the market for mobile devices is Avast Secureline VPN. Avast employs powerful encryption and gives users a lot of control over different aspects of their connection. If you’re curious and want to learn more, check out this VPNpro review of Avast.
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