We use our smartphones for nearly everything these days. From ordering food for dinner to checking out what our friends are up to on social media to watching TV, you can do nearly everything on a smartphone.
And it’s impossible to imagine using our smartphones or tablets without, in one form or another, using mobile applications (apps).
Apps are essential for using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The problem, though, is they can also leave us vulnerable to attacks from cyber criminals.
Here’s how you can stay safe when downloading and using apps.
Avoid downloading apps that are spam or phishing attempts
A favourite tactic for cyber criminals is to trick Canadians into thinking they are installing a real mobile app when it is, in fact, a fake.
For example: Cyber criminals are attempting to fool Canadians into downloading fake apps related to COVID-19. They brand and design the apps to make it look like the Government of Canada’s official COVID-19 exposure notification app.
However, these fake apps are actually pieces of ransomware designed to hijack data from whoever downloads it. The cyber criminal demands a ransom for the stolen data, but there is no guarantee that the data will be released, even if the victim pays.
(The real Government of Canada COVID-19 exposure notification app is available here).
The best way to combat this is to use your judgement when downloading apps. You should only download apps from a trusted vendor. However, even if you download an app from a reputable vendor, there’s still a risk that it could be malicious.
Another way to make sure you’re downloading the real deal? Go to the source directly and look for links. In the case of the Government of Canada COVID-19 app, the link to the real exposure notification app is on the official Government of Canada website.
Stay safe while using apps
It’s not just downloading apps that can create problems for app security. Even using legitimate apps can create problems by collecting data that you otherwise wouldn’t want to part with.
For example: Certain apps run in the background on your device, collecting data and sending it to an outside entity. It’s important for you to know what is happening with your data, so that you make sure the data you want to keep private doesn’t get collected by an app.
Another issue with apps is permissions. We get so many requests from apps to access information (such as our photos) or device functions (such as our microphones) that sometimes we just blindly grant permission to all apps.
It’s important to be aware of the permissions you grant to each app and what information those apps can access. When you are reviewing permissions and access, you may want to restrict them to the bare minimum you’ll need for them to work for you.
Download a cyber security app
Protecting your phone from malicious apps by downloading an app?
That’s right – one of the best ways to stay app secure is to…download a mobile app.
There are many apps, such as anti-virus or VPN apps, that help protect you from malicious websites, software and downloads.
Just be careful: Many apps (as with other pieces of software) that claim to keep your phone safe are actually just malware in disguise.
Be vigilant and only download cyber security apps that are legitimate.
It’s tough to use devices like smartphones or tablets without using apps. That’s why it’s important to stay safe as you use them. Follow the steps laid out above to ensure you stay cyber secure.