#3 Privacy Wars: The force awakens

June 13, 2016 Technology

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This is the third in our 3-part series on Mobile App Security. To read about the security risks posed by mobile apps do read our previous articles Civil War: Apps vs You and APPocalypse: Xtinction of Privacy

Thanks to the lack of security measures taken by mobile app makers, they intentionally or unintentionally put us in a catch-22; Neither do we want our personal information to fall into the wrong hands nor can we do without mobile apps. How then, can these risks be mitigated (as detailed in APPocalypse: Xtinction of Privacy) to some extent at least?

In these times of whistle-blowers, identity thefts, cybercrimes and widespread personal information leaks it is pertinent for tech companies and app builders to step up and build more robust and hardened apps. Review and tailor the access permissions to support the core functions alone. Apps can make security a competitive edge. WhatsApp after several security glitches and putting members at risk, has finally come out with an end to end encryption for its users. The App’s over 1 billion monthly active users can message each other with the guarantee of strong encryption—whether they’re exchanging messages, sending files, participating in group chats, or calling each other directly.

Here are some basic tips to follow;

  1. Do not use jail broken or rooted devices. This breaks the security model and removes any inherent limitations, allowing mobile malware and rogue apps to infect the device and control critical functions such as SMS
  2. Outdated Operating Systems can also make you vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Use the latest version of Mobile OS and also ensure that the latest app updates are installed. Many apps will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks.
  3. Install tracking apps to track in case of lost/stolen devices. These apps also let you wipe sensitive information remotely. If your phone does end up landing in the wrong hands, you can at least make sure they don’t get your information.
  4. Configuring privacy settings ensures that you’re not inadvertently sharing sensitive information as you set up your standard apps and services. For instance, go to Settings then Security, then Encrypt Device and follow the prompts. Some devices don’t support encryption, but most newer devices are capable and don’t suffer with performance issues.
  5. Malware is a serious issue plaguing many a computer user, and it’s known for cropping up in inconspicuous places, unbeknownst to users. Anti-malware protection is essential for laying a foundation of security. Malware is a serious issue plaguing many a computer user, and it’s known for cropping up in inconspicuous places, unbeknownst to users. Anti-malware protection is essential for laying a foundation of security
  6. Another reminder: As soon as you get a new smartphone, set a hard to guess password to protect your device and change it on a regular basis.

As users it’s time to start reading the terms and conditions, for a change. Think twice before clicking on ‘Agree’. Be prudent and reject sketchy apps. Don’t compromise your personal security for convenience. This will only force app companies to create apps that stay away from unrequired permissions and create a more secure environment for you. It is an uphill battle to secure your personal digital space but one that must be fought nevertheless. May the Force be with you!



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