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Smartphone Apps Pose Risks to User’s Personal Data

4Discovery’s Josh Fazio Appears on WGN’s “Business Lunch” Program

You just downloaded a fun looking app on your smart phone.  Minutes later this app sends your user name, email address, and banking passwords to a third party.  The app also notified a variety of advertisers of your exact GPS location.  And to make matters worse, you actually agreed to this.

Josh WGNYes, it’s true, apps downloaded to your smart phone can contain spyware that collects your personal information, and Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano of WGN Radio recently interviewed 4Discovery’s Senior Forensic Investigator, Josh Fazio, on their “Business Lunch” program to learn more about this frightening trend.  “The Google Play Store is the wild-wild-west”, claimed Fazio, one of the most accomplished mobile device investigators in the industry.  Many of these apps are counterfeit versions of the real applications, and can contain spyware that tracks your every move, and steals your sensitive information, sending it to off-shore servers.   Unfortunately, smart phone users often “agree” to this activity when they click on the “agree” button at the end of the app’s terms of use language.  The problem is, most of us never even read the terms of use.  And when considering the average smart phone user has 26 apps on their phone, the risk is real.

IMG_1568Case in point; the “Brightest Flashlight,” a free app that was downloaded by tens of millions of users, and Snapchat both settled with the FTC recently for reportedly engaging in deceptive practices.  These companies allegedly imbedded spyware in their apps that confiscated users’ personal information.  What kind of information can these apps steal?  You may not want to know….your contacts, user names, passwords, photos, and location, just to name a few.

Fear not!  Josh has some tips to help you safeguard your personal data while still enjoying those addictive smart phone games and applications.

 

Tips for protecting your smart phone data

1.  Shop Wisely.  Some app stores, including the Google Play Store, essentially allow anyone to post applications on their site.  Some of these apps contain malware and other nasty stuff.  Be careful, and avoid downloading apps from questionable sites.  Some experts believe the iPhone app store is safer, as Apple tends to vet their app developers more thoroughly.

2.  Read the User Agreements.  Don’t just click “Accept.”  If the agreement is questionable, skip that app.  It’s just not worth it.

3.  Never “Update All.”  Your smart phone’s system will sometimes provide you with a reminder that some of your apps can be updated.  Avoid clicking the “update all” button unless you are completely comfortable with the features of all your apps.  Also, do not set your system configurations to “Auto Update,” as this can subject you to new user terms that may not be agreeable to you.

 

Listen to the WGN Radio Interview HERE!

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About Jeff Hartman

Jeff is a 30 year veteran of the corporate security, computer forensics, and eDiscovery community and a co-founder and partner at 4Discovery. 4Discovery is a leading provider of computer incident response and computer forensics services to attorneys, corporate security executives, and the information protection community.