Ever since Facebook users rebelled from the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, smartphone users are more concerned than ever with controlling what information apps and services can collect and how they can use it – to the extent that data privacy has been the topic of legal battles across the United States.
To quote the recent Supreme Court case Carpenter v. United States :
Today, our most sensitive records aren’t necessarily held in homes and cabinets. They’re held by third parties. The contents of emails, text messages, and social media messages are stored by companies like Google, Verizon, and Facebook; family photos reside with Apple, Flickr, and the like; and information about health conditions, relationships, finances, political opinions, sexual orientation, and daily habits is stored on servers of the many companies that provide internet service and smartphone apps.
Unfortunately, the security of our personal data stored in apps is by no means guaranteed. According to app developers and researchers, 97 of the top 100 Android apps and 87 of the top 100 iOS apps have been hacked as recently as 2014.
As personal details about our lives continue to be collected and stored online at a rapidly growing pace, it’s critical that we consider the security of those online storage units and what role we can play in protecting our data from being used or viewed without our consent. If you want to make sure your data isn’t vulnerable to the next big breach, here are five steps you can take, today.
Use the Maximum Possible Privacy Restrictions
The bigger the app developer, the more robust its security features are likely to be, but it’s also more likely to be a target for hackers. Since there’s no app company that’s 100 percent secure from the threat of breach, it’s better to avoid the risk and opt for the maximum privacy restrictions possible for each app. After all, data that isn’t collected can’t be stolen.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to set maximum security across all apps at once because each app separately regulates how your data is used. The most efficient way to manage this transition is to go through all of your apps and change your privacy settings. If you have too many apps to tackle at once, organize your apps into “secure” and “unsecure” folders and then move them over one at a time as you update each one.
Be Wary of Wi-Fi
It’s not always the app that’s the threat of being hacked – it can also be the internet connection you’re using to access the app . Unsecured, public wi-fi locations in places like airports, malls and restaurants may help you avoid using your cell phone data, but they also create an opportunity for hackers to access the data you’re sending from your phone to the cloud without your awareness.
A simple fix? Double-check that you’re using your secure cellular network and not a default, unsecured internet connection by disabling the “Wi-Fi” switch in your phone’s “Settings” tab before you access a bank app or send an email in a public place.
Check Your Phone’s History
You’ll want to check your phone’s history to make sure it hasn’t been hacked without your knowledge, particularly if you’ve purchased a used or unlocked phone. Fortunately, “there’s an app for that.” Consider getting the System and Security Info app , which can tell you if you’ve inadvertently purchased a jailbroken phone.
Keep an Eye Out for Hacked Apps
You might be surprised to hear that such financial apps as
Only you know your tolerance for risk. For some, once an app is hacked, the trust is gone, and it’s no longer worth using that app. If that’s the case for you, make sure you keep a finger on the pulse of which apps have experienced a breach. Check the list and see if you’re active on any of the apps that have experienced a hack in the past.
Reconsider the Rest of Your Apps
In situations where you aren’t sure how much data is being collected or how it is being used, there’s a lot to be said for opting out of apps entirely. Take a look at your phone’s most-used apps and compare it with apps that store the most data. Are there any you can live without? Not only will you be freeing up more space on your phone for music, photos and documents, but you’ll be removing a significant percentage of your risk.
As more and more apps build revenue streams based on collecting and sharing your personal data with advertisers, you may find yourself opting into privacy policies that don’t align with your values. Before you hit “Accept” on the next app that wants to collect your data, refer to this list to make sure you won’t regret it.