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Research Apps Before You Install

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In October of 2014 a flashlight app for smartphones made the news. The story went that an app that you can download to your device is really spying on you; stealing your information and sending it off to servers in other lands for bad guys to use for their own purposes. Recently, a company that was mentioned in those stories settled a lawsuit with the FTC where the FTC claimed it was collecting and distributing data unnecessarily. Likely, because of that settlement, this “news” is circulating once again.

However, this story was largely exaggerated and should be taken with a grain of salt. The original reports claimed that a security company found that the top ten flashlight apps were malware and were getting permissions to parts of your phone, like the GPS, camera, microphone, etc. and sending off your sensitive data, such as banking credentials to servers in China or Russia, or both.

While any app asking for permissions that seem strange is normal, it doesn’t necessarily mean the apps are malware or even dangerous. In fact, many apps ask for permissions just because they can. It’s up to the consumer to decide what apps to download and what permissions to grant to those apps.

So pay attention when you’re setting up the apps. If you do download a flashlight or weather app, for example, it really doesn’t need permission to your camera or microphone (unless of course you are posting photos to the app). In the case of maps or weather apps, however, they will ask for GPS access to be more accurate. If it’s asking to use an internet connection, it could merely be because it wants to download ads, particularly if the app is free.

Read more in Security.