Vol. 17 No. 3
Information security awareness for every employee
Smartphone Apps graphic

Study: Mobile Apps Put Your Privacy at Risk

A new study finds that a huge number of mobile phone apps can put users’ privacy and security at risk.

According to earlier studies, the average smartphone user has 26 apps installed.  That’s bad news, because if recent research is any indication, virtually all of them come with privacy or security concerns of some sort.

Issue spans app types
The study focused on custom business apps, but there's no reason to believe the issue doesn't extend to commercial apps you find in the Apple App Store or Google Play.  Many of those apps have access to data or permission to perform functions they shouldn’t.

For example, if you want to play Angry Birds, there’s no reason the game needs access to your contacts, is there?  And  a weather app probably doesn’t need to be able to send email on your behalf.

The security risks in apps go beyond permissions, though:

Bullet Researchers say 97% of all apps they studied contained some sort of privacy issue. 

Bullet They also found that 86% of the apps lack basic security defenses.

Bullet Moreover, 75% fail to properly encrypt data.

Assuming similar percentages across the hundreds of thousands of offerings in app stores, it’s likely that you have several security or privacy concerns floating around your smartphone or tablet.

There’s a spinoff issue, too: In today’s Bring Your Own Device work environment, these security and privacy risks are exaggerated for both employer and employee.  In most cases, the line between business and personal is not clearly defined, and apps can easily blur that line and put both company and personal data at risk. 

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that apps are impulse purchases for many users, thanks to low prices and easy installation.