By Erin Levine
Technology is ever changing, but the rules of online safety are not. While the latest technology brings us new benefits and exciting fun features, it also brings us a new set of potential problems. Smartphones, which are essentially a computer and a phone all in one, are definitely convenient and fun to use, but they are also potentially threatening when it comes to your personal data security.
Smartphones use mobile apps, a software program you can download and access directly using your phone, to access games, news, and any of our other favorite pages on the internet. Because you can often download these apps with just a click of a brightly colored button, you may not be thinking about how these apps are paid for, what information is gathered, and who has access to this information.
Free apps are often distributed through app stores and are paid for by advertising space, version upgrades, and special app features. Some apps are actually a form of advertising, and are offered free to interest you in another company’s products.
The types of information apps could potentially have access to include contacts, call logs, internet, calendar and location data, and information on how the app is being used. While some apps only ask to access data they need to function, some gather all sorts of other nonrelated personal information, and may be sharing it with other companies. Since it is sometimes confusing as to what information the app is collecting and how it will be used, it is important to always read the “permissions” before installation, and make sure the information being collected makes sense for the use of the app.
Another risk that comes along with these apps is the potential of malware. Just like with phishing emails, these malware apps are often hard to differentiate from legitimate apps. According to OnGuard Online, if your phone sends emails or text messages that you didn’t write, or installs apps that you didn’t download, you may have malware on your Smartphone.
Luckily, as technology and potential security threats progress, so does protection against these threats. For example, Symantec has released a free Android app called Norton Mobile Security Lite that automatically scans downloaded apps and updates for these kinds of threats and blocks phishing sites, similar to the antivirus you have on your home computer.
Security threats will always be an issue, but that’s no reason to not enjoy what technology has to offer. Always be aware of what information you are giving out, and for more information on how to be safe, secure and responsible online, visit onguardonline.gov.
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