Do You Really Know What Information You Share Online?
Updated on July 13, 2021: From now on, traffic filtering, malware protection, and suspicious DNS activity blocking are available as a part of the separate DNS Firewall app.
Internet security and privacy protection have been a topic for years. And while we usually explain how to protect yourself from external threats like hackers, it’s time to talk about a Trojan horse in the room. We mean, of course, all those countless apps that can potentially (and probably do) collect some of your personal data and send it to interested parties. What’s even more scary, it is you who allow them to do whatever they want.
How your smartphone became a minefield
It’s no secret that all apps that you install to your phone ask your permission to gather some data from you. It’s completely understandable when a Skype app wants access to your microphone, or a QR Scanner – to your camera. However, you might have noticed that some apps’ requests are less obvious. Why does a flashlight app need to know my location, again? But most often you just don’t have time to figure out the reason behind that, and simply accept whatever nonsense an app requests, don’t you?
Well, how about that – researches show there are plenty of apps on both Google Play Market and App Store that:
- collect whatever personal information you allow them to;
In the light of this, you should expect that any app you download can potentially become a peephole through which its author will be able to spy on you.
Channels of information leakage
So, what kind of your personal information does exactly get available? It turns out – any! Your phone’s unique ID number, your location, age, gender, etc. But then there’s more. For example, did you know that Google Maps stores the detailed history of your movements for three months, and a general data of your movements – for your whole life? Just imagine what will happen if such a complete information about your habits falls into the wrong hands. Or how about an app that claims to help with cleaning your mailbox from unwanted email campaigns, but then quietly collects and transfers all your correspondence to a third company?
Okay, one may ask, how do I protect myself then? Well, it’s no easy task nowadays. The most obvious solution would be to deny access to your personal data for all unreliable apps. Unfortunately, this might not be sufficient, as a recent study by Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that some apps which have been denied permissions to view sensitive information can actually access it through leakages from approved apps.
A good idea would be to combine managing apps permissions with using a VPN to trick your own apps and making them collect false data. Such a combination will certainly grant you a decent level of protection. But of course, the best defense against such threats is your consciousness and alertness when choosing a new app to install – no precautions can protect you from a scam if you yourself let the scammer in.