How to practice safe Apps

Apps are awesome. I don’t need to tell you that. Just look at your phone or tablet or both. They probably have a boatload of Apps on them already.

I bet you have already installed many of the usual suspects such as Angry Birds, Instagram, Facebook, some sort of Twitter client, WhatsApp and maybe even a few work related ones like Evernote and DropBox. And of course if you’re good Canadian, you’re likely to have The Weather Network App installed! We take our weather seriously up here.

All of these Apps are pretty well known and mainstream, but what about that flappy-penguin game from China that looked cool or that fitness app that will get you doing 42,000 push-ups a day in only a week? They seem legit right?

Apps are in fact awesome but they can also carry a lot of risk that we don’t even consider when we download them. Here’s why…

Your phone knows everything about you. EVERYTHING.

Think about it. I know that sounds ridiculous but let’s drill down into that statement and see if I’m right: It knows where you are via GPS triangulation. It knows where you’ve been because it has access to your calendar. More importantly it even knows where you will be in the future. It knows who all your friends are because it has access to your contacts. It knows who you call and how often. Same with texts. It knows your home address. It knows where you work. It knows how to connect to your bank account. It sends and receives all of your personal and business email. It may even have private personal information such as credit card numbers, health details and possibly even inappropriate selfies on it.

Your phone knows more about you than your Mom, your significant other, your BFF and your lawyer put together. Do you really want this information out there and accessible because you downloaded an App with some malware attached?

Probably not.

So is it really just safe to download any old App?

Not really.

I know… I know… but you want… no NEED Apps. I get it. If you’re going to download them anyway, then here are a couple quick steps to help you practice safe Apps:

#1 Do an App reference check

Before you download that App, find out what other people are saying about it. If it’s not a mainstream App like say… Hootsuite or Pocket look for reviews in the App store. Are they good? Are they bad? Worst of all are there none? Badly reviewed Apps or new Apps with no reviews should be cause for pause before downloading.

Next simply Google the name of the App and see what comes up. While you’re at it, add the words “scam” or “malware to the search and see if you get any hits. Or try a search on Twitter and see what people are saying.

Regardless of where you look, make sure you do a little reference checking before you let that App onto your phone.

#2 Don’t make it easy to install unwanted Apps

Setup a strong password and biometric protection for your purchases from the App store. This works well for two reasons. Frist, if you’re too many drinks into the evening a strong password provides a built in sobriety test. Ok, I made that one up but it’s highly possibly to accidently download Apps you don’t want or make in-App purchases that can add up to real money fast. A week password or enabling in-App purchases can also allow kids to rack up huge charges and expose your device to tons of different variations of malware as well.

#3 Ask your self “do I really need more stuff”?

George Carlin would say “no”. With every new App you add to your phone you are not only hogging up valuable storage space and slowing down performance but also exponentially increasing the risk of mobile virus infections or malware sneaking onto your device.

#4 Review permissions

It can be eye opening to checkout the default permissions that Apps have to access information on your phone. Why does a traffic App need access to your entire contact database and the ability to post to Twitter and Facebook? It doesn’t!

Make sure that after you have downloaded any App you confirm what it is allowed to do on your device and disable anything that you don’t feel comfortable with. If it’s asking for WAY to many permissions it may be a red flag that this App isn’t something you want on your phone!

How not to get hacked…

Apps are awesome but regardless of platform (yes there is malware and viruses for iPhone’s too) you need to practice safe Apps to protect yourself and your privacy. Especially if you have jailbroken your phone!

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