The threat in downloading new mobile apps

By: and | Updated: July 11, 2016 7:56 AM

Mobile apps bring many benefits, but they also expose the user to security breaches

The Norton study reveals that two out of three Indians (65%) now access the internet more often on a mobile device than on a PC. (Reuters)The Norton study reveals that two out of three Indians (65%) now access the internet more often on a mobile device than on a PC. (Reuters)

People download apps every day, but the truth is that consumers in India are trading their personal information in exchange for free apps, exposing themselves to privacy risks. Nearly one in two Indians have granted access to contacts and mobile data in exchange for free apps; close to 40% have granted access to their camera. That’s not all. Victims lost an average of a day’s time dealing with mobile security issues, according to the India findings from Symantec’s Norton Mobile Survey that sheds light on the security gaps and the privacy risks smartphone and mobile apps present.

The Norton study reveals that two out of three Indians (65%) now access the internet more often on a mobile device than on a PC. In fact, the smartphone is often the first and only device used for accessing the internet. “In today’s mobile-first world, mobile devices are like digital warehouses storing our most personal moments and information, such as photos and videos, conversations with friends and family, health and fitness details, financial data and more,” says Ritesh Chopra, country manager, India, Norton by Symantec.

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Highlighting the increased dependency and usage, respondents reported that they check their device an average of 41 times a day. While making calls continue to be the primary use of a smartphone, applications for internet browsing, communication and social media are just as important. “The report identified that the most concerning security issues for Indian mobile users were virus attacks, followed by threats involving fraudulent access or misuse of credit card or bank account details, and hacking or leaking of personal information,” Chopra says (see interview).

Where mobile meets money

The survey reveals that mobile wallets, mobile banking and e-commerce apps were among the top five apps used by the Indian users. Mobile devices are increasingly important to how we shop and pay—both online and in-store. Close to 50% of consumers accept that they shop online more than ever before. While 68% of the users worry about the security threats of online shopping, 42% say they have in fact experienced a security problem, threat or nuisance as a
result of using their devices for online shopping. Yet, only 26% of online shoppers believe that threats are increasing. Ironically, a whopping 50% believe that online risks are reducing.

Interestingly, within India, users in Delhi (71%) indulge more frequently in mobile banking than those in Mumbai (63%). When it comes to mWallet, 52% of users believe their mWallet has come under threat as a result of using other apps on their devices, especially social media apps which are perceived to pose the greatest threats, according to 27% respondents. This is not surprising as, on an average users find it safe to hold over Rs 19,000 across their mWallet accounts at any given time. In terms of losses, the victims felt that security problems had taken up an average of over 24 hours to resolve.

Stay safe, be aware

There are many steps consumers can take to protect themselves. Norton recommends the following best practices:
* Use strong passwords and lock screen patterns: Lock screen security is important, as it makes it more or less impossible for a thief to access your information. Also, use different passwords for different apps and change them often.
* Be vigilant: Being aware of SMS phishing scams is another  measure. It’s not just emails you have to watch out for these days— phishing scams come in the form of text messages as well.
* Review settings and updates regularly: Keeping your phone or tablet’s software updated is important. If your mobile device isn’t regularly updated, it’s vulnerable to threats.
* Download apps from official app stores: Third-party app stores may not put apps through the same rigour as official app stores such as the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
* Depend on reliable security

Solutions: Consider using a security software such as Norton Mobile Security, it helps to use discretion when installing apps. Norton Mobile Insight, a proprietary intelligence tool, crawls over 200 app stores globally to determine and provide dynamic analysis of app behaviour. It protects against Android apps that leak personal information from devices, change settings and require high battery or data usage.

Without doubt, mobile apps bring many benefits but a user needs to be careful and employ security measures when using them.

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