Applications are software programs developed for end-users to accomplish specific computing tasks. Apps, on the other hand, mostly refer to programs developed for mobile devices. Both depend on the platform and operating system they were designed for. Most applications are used to process documents and are bundled with other applications to form a suite, just like Microsoft Office. This is also the same for mobile apps. Both applications and apps are popular for their various uses in entertainment, novelty, education, reference, and others. However, mobile apps are patronized more for entertainment and communication purposes. Applications are bought with the operating system or individually from physical stores or websites. Apps are usually downloaded from mobile app stores.
Understanding your mobile apps
With the elements of function and entertainment in play, apps are now generally a must-have for mobile phone users. Easily-downloadable and often free, these mobile apps bring convenience and fun to the table. While making one's mobile life "smarter", it is easy to get lost with the thousands of apps made available today. One may easily click download without weighing key considerations. Expectedly, questions on privacy, and security have surfaced with the idea of democratization brought by mobile apps. has opened a gateway for vulnerabilities to be exploited by cybercriminals for profit.
With a number of free apps made available today, it is easy to get lost in the number of those that one can easily download. One key consideration on things like this is the trade-off. Are these apps really free? As surprising as it may sound, majority of mobile phone users are willing to trade their data for free access of a service or an app.
Signing up with an app store or downloading an individual app, the mobile phone user is often asked for permission to grant access to information found in the device including the following:
- Phone and email contacts
- Call history
- Internet data
- Calendar data
- Device location
- Unique identifications
- User app behavior
A number of apps seek only for information they need to function while there are others who are accessing data not related to the purpose of the app. With this in mind, when a user is providing information, someone is collecting it: the app developer, the app store, an advertiser, or an ad network. Getting hold of this data, they may share it with other companies.
Apps are primarily created to reach more mobile phone users and this is made possible if developers create them as inexpensively as they can. Because of this, developers sell advertising space in the app so they can lower cost. Some developers sell space in their apps to ad networks, who then sell the space to advertisers.
The information a mobile user provides is interconnected with the ads seen in downloaded apps. With the common knowledge that a mobile phone user is most likely to click on ads that target his/her interests, ad networks gather the information apps collect combined with the information a user inputs in his/her online activities, opening a gateway of opportunity to ad networks to send targeted ads relevant to one’s preferences and even location.
Apps are essentially giving life to the ordinary mobile phone user. Widening the breadth of activities a user can do using mobile devices has, in turn, made them targets for cybercriminal attacks. With the global upward trajectory of mobile device usage, it is expected that threats will no longer limited to conventional PCs. Our 12 Security Predictions for 2012 showed predictions that attacks will continue to target smartphones and tablets. While the shift in platform has been apparent, the threat scenario remains as a viable entry point for cybercriminals. A user who downloads from app stores may end up downloading malware in the guise of a legitimate app.By the end of 2013, it has been reported that malicious and high-risk apps had reached the 1.4 million mark. Those that were equipped with information-stealing abilities then grew 17% at the onset of the year to almost a quarter by the end of 2013. Even more alarming is the projection that over 3 million malicious and high-risk apps are slated to be released by the end of 2014.
How to keep your app-world risk-free?
In today's ever-evolving technology-driven society, it is easy to fall into the traps left by cybercriminals. A mobile device user has an average of 41 downloaded apps. With the demand still growing for more ways to expand one's mobile device use, it is expected that more and more ways will be sought by cybercriminals to take advantage on this clamor for newer, more advanced apps.
The biggest armor, a smart mobile user can wear is to stay well-informed of the many ways a cybercriminal could take advantage of mobile device's vulnerability. These simple steps are key in keeping your app-world safe from threats:
- Think before you download. Choose apps that will be useful to you.
- Be mindful of the download sites you go to for your apps. It is always best to go to official app stores for security.
- Always check for app details prior to your download. Reading on every tiny detail can aid you to weed out the fake or malicious apps.
- Never click on links with promises that are too good to be true.
- Read everything and carefully analyze permissions asked by apps you download.
- Always be in the know of security features installed on your mobile devices.
- Invest and install an effective mobile security app.