In the relatively short amount of time they’ve been on the market, smartphones have become the center of our digital lives. By comparison, desktops and laptops fall far behind in the race for the most popular smart devices. And it’s easy to see why. Smartphones can do a lot of the things that a laptop can do, allowing users to handle almost all of their personal or professional tasks without the need of another device. Apart from that, they’re much more convenient as you can take them with you wherever you want, they’re easy to use and can be customized to suit your unique needs.
Long story short, smartphones have rapidly transformed into the ideal multi-purpose devices that offer a solution for everything, so much so that certain experts predict they’ll replace laptops and desktops entirely at some point in the future. But until that moment comes, we must learn to make the most of what we’ve got right now. And what we’ve got in a variety of smartphone models packed with countless apps that are meant to make life easier for us.
There are a lot of great things to say about mobile apps, and some not-so-great things that make the subject of our discussion. While apps can be extremely useful and provide a wide range of benefits for all types of users, there are also plenty of security and privacy issues associated with them. That’s why, as a smartphone user, you should get educated on these matters and learn how to address common app security threats.
Know your sources
While you can take measures to make your current apps safer, the smartest thing to do is practice caution before downloading an app. And the first aspect you should pay attention to is the source of the app you want to download. The rule of thumb is to avoid sketchy app stores and only download apps from official sources such as Google Play or the App Store, depending on what type of device you use. Developers review all apps from their store to make sure they meet their standards, so you can rest assured these apps are safe to use.
Even if you can download apps from third-party providers, experts in the field advise sticking to reputable sources, as they guarantee higher safety standards. But even official stores have their weaknesses and suspicious apps can make their way in, so you shouldn’t assume all the apps they offer are 100% safe. You should investigate further and learn about the company that built the app. If you spot any red flags like suspicious apps from the same developer or questionable information, you should abort the mission.
In the age of the internet, you can find all the information you need about every product or service under the sun, apps included. Online reviews have become the new word-of-mouth in the digital landscape, and they can make or break reputations and businesses. So, what better way to find out if an app is reliable or not than reading online reviews? But keep in mind you should believe everything you read on the internet. Put your critical thinking skills to good use to filter information and gain valuable insights on the apps you’re interested in.
Apart from reviews, you can also read news or research conducted by reputable organizations targeting some of the most popular apps on the market. One recent example is the privacy issues found in Clubhouse App after the Stanford University Internet Observatory Team conducted thorough research. These types of news travel fast on the internet, so all you have to do is ask Google for help and you’ll find out if an app has made headlines.
After you’ve conducted the necessary research, you can safely download the app you need on your smartphone. But here comes another tricky aspect that most users tend to ignore – app permissions. A lot of people are content with granting apps permissions without even reading them first. That’s not a very smart move if you want to keep security and privacy threats at bay.
It’s true that you’ll have to accept some permissions if you want to run an app on your smartphone, but that doesn’t mean you should accept them all. This will leave you vulnerable since an app can gain access to parts of your phone where you store sensitive data and use them as they see fit. A much wiser approach is to inspect permissions carefully and only accept the ones that make sense to you and are necessary for the functioning of the app. And the good news is you can also go back and change permissions from your existing apps, so you can do now what you should have done from the start.
Keep your apps updated
You don’t have to be tech-savvy to ensure the safety of your smartphone. Something as simple as keeping your apps updated can significantly reduce app-related security and privacy issues and help you stay on the safe side. And you don’t have to do anything other than setting your phone to notify you when app updates are available or allow it to install updates automatically.
Keep in mind that some updates can’t be installed automatically because of their size or because they require special permissions, so you should regularly check if there are new updates that you should download. These updates address vulnerabilities that developers discover in their apps over time, meaning each time you update your apps you make them stronger and safer to use.
Use multifactor authentication
Last but not least, let’s not forget one of the most effective methods to protect your smartphone – strong passwords. The need for strong passwords and multifactor authentication for each account is a tale as old as time, yet people often forget how important this is.
These are basic requirements to hack-proof your apps and make sure your personal data and information are kept safe at all times. So next time you want to download an app, go through this checklist first to make sure you’re playing it safe.