Is Your Android Smartphone SAFE?

Mobile phones and tablets have become an inseparable part of our daily lifestyle. Every day we download apps, play games online, surf web, bank online, and do n-number of things on smartphones. Are you aware that all this can directly hamper security of your personal data? Your current location can be compromised, call logs or messages can be deleted, contact list can be shared or erased, identity can be snitched, bank accounts details can be hacked, and more. Precisely, someone at a remote location can fully control your techy-baby.

“WHAT…..?” May be this is the first reaction after reading this. But that’s true, someone somewhere may have access to your information and the question arise “Are We Really SECURE?”

What’s more alarming is that most popular Android OS that stakes 75% of smartphone market is on top of the threat list with 79% of malware infections related to it as per report from a security firm. The Finland-based F-Secure’s report mentions that Google’s open source operating system that has gained smartphone market global share, has become the dominant platform targeted by hackers. Other players in the market – BlackBerry, Apple’s iOS, and Windows Phone are also facing threats coming up once in a while and each had less than one percent of mobile phone infections.

Though viruses are major culprits causing trouble and irregularities in phones yet there are so many other reasons too. Android being an open source OS is vulnerable to geeky malware attacks. Users unknowingly expose themselves to these threats either by unintentionally tapping an advertisement cleverly placed on an app or game, or by inadvertently authorizing an app to access their data without understanding permissions it looks for.

According to 2012 report by Bit9, a digital security firm, over two-thirds of all Android apps ask at least one high-risk ‘permission’ and one-fourth access private information like email and contacts. Means if your friend has compromised his privacy while downloading an app, then he could have accidentally put you also at risk just because your contact information is present in his list. In this world of app permissions and nasty software in-fact users don’t have command of their data. Various applications seek for numerous permissions that they may not need, and most of us without understanding this gives access to our privacy by installing an app. Virtually almost every app looks for permission to access mobile phone data varying from address book to location to even text messages.

Indeed most popular and socialized, Facebook app seeks permission for accessing almost everything, including your microphone. Google Plus app also takes permissions for reading call logs, record audio, take pictures, and shoot videos. But, this doesn’t mean that these app developers mine your data, however they can. Fortunately, big tech gurus are playing responsibly. As Google has pulled out about 50 apps from Android market in 2011 after complaints of data theft, and more than 20 apps have been uprooted this year for same reasons.

Recently a real time service called TaintDroid has been in limelight for analyzing how user’s private information is accessed through these apps. In a study conducted on 30 “downloadable” applications, TaintDroid revealed that 15 of them send user’s locational data to remote servers while 7 of them send SIM card serial number and other identifiers to unknown servers.

Attractive ads featured in various free apps aren’t safe, too. However most of them are just promotions, yet they can be utilized for injecting viruses and disguising links to mischievous websites. These are strategically placed at a position where they are more likely to be clicked while gaming, surfing, or chatting. These tricky advertisements quickly drain mobile’s battery and wash up any 2G/3G data plan, as they keep on changing in seconds. Other threats related with Android include SMS trojans, madware, banking Trojans, which are especially designed to obtain password of customer’s online account, gain access to private data, steal identity, and more.

Are you relaxed that you don’t own a smartphone? Think again, as cyber criminals can still steal your data. In this era of apps, user’s privacy is intricately knitted into his social groups like friends, family and colleagues. Any breach in their accounts can leave you in vulnerable situation where your private information is at bay.

Here are some tips to be safe while scrolling through apps on your Android device.

1.) Install mobile anti-virus software with advanced features that help in protecting personal information while providing anti-phishing. You can shop for Norton anti-virus or McAfee software for enhanced protection

2.) Don’t leave your phone’s Bluetooth turned on, as Bluejacking & Bluebugging can be dangerous allowing hackers to use your phone’s features like forwarding incoming calls, listening to calls, sending text messages, clicking photographs, and more.

3.) Make sure Wi-Fi is connected through a secured connection

4.) See app’s rating & reviews before downloading, as this can reveal potential problems faced by an app or any technical issue you might encounter
Downloading a free app? “Beware,” as they are more prone to frauds. It’s better to go for paid apps

5.) After carefully installing an app, make sure to look out for recent app reviews in Google Play and if there’s any update that’s worth getting

Most importantly carefully check privacy policy of an app and permissions it seeks before downloading, as it’s not just you but all your acquaintances’ will be at risk of theft. Have a safe Android app experience.

Maria Johnson is associated with CouponAlbum.com, one stop destination for online coupons, coupon codes, promo codes and discount deals

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