Securing Mobile Apps

Do you want to learn how to play the piano? Well, there’s an app for that! The world is at our fingertips. With one tap on a phone screen, you can unlock endless information, instructions for new skills, social interactions, and much more. Mobile applications, or apps, make access to just about anything quick and easy; but are they endangering your cybersecurity? 

If you are not careful, apps can gain access to your personal information, withdraw money from your account that you did not intend on spending, and even take control of your entire phone.

Here are some tips on how to enjoy the vast array of mobile apps without compromising your security: 
  • Download apps you can trust. Only use reputable sources to download your apps, like the Apple App Store or Google Play. These two sources have their own security measures to protect consumers. Elsewhere on the web, anyone can create apps that look great but they may infect your device. Red flag: If you find a free apps on the Internet that cost money via the Apple App Store or Google Play – it would not be suggested to download the app. Also, be cautious when downloading newly developed apps. It is easier to trust an app that has a long history of safety and positive reviews. The uncertainty of a new app may not be worth the risk. 
  • Pay attention to possible charges. Extra charges to consider include: Roaming charges while abroad. Turn off your mobile data while exploring the world. Going over the data limit included in your mobile plan and accruing charges. Be sure to keep track of data usage.  Other people downloading costly apps or in-app purchases without your knowledge. Select the setting which requires a password prior to making any purchases via apps. 
  • Think before you give permission. The first thing that many apps ask for is access to your personal information, current location, or photo albums. Read these permission requests carefully before granting access. Sure, if it's Instagram, access to your photo albums is necessary; but if you're thinking “why on earth would an app like this need access to my photos?” then it’s probably best to deny access. Current location access requests can also be tricky. While it makes sense to allow this for many apps, it may also put you at risk to be tracked. Rule of thumb: Only give permission if you feel that the information that the app wants to access is completely necessary for its functioning.
  • Update your apps. Cyber-criminals are constantly searching for security weaknesses in apps. Many app updates serve to strengthen security and ensure that these criminals never successfully steal information or infect your device. Check for updates frequently in your app store. Better yet, select the option that allows apps to update automatically. Rename your mobile devices to something other than the generic/default name that is assigned to them at the factory.
  • Log out. In the event that someone else gets their hands on your device, it is important to safeguard your information as much as possible. For example, online banking apps are popular now. If you leave this app logged in, a hacker who unlocks your phone has immediate access to all of your funds and banking information. 
  • Clear your device. Getting rid of your device? Make sure that the next person who has it does not have access to your personal information. Delete all of your apps.

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: