As the use of mobile applications for work and leisure continues to rise, so does the number of security threats that target the sensitive data stored on these applications. In fact, in 2018 – a survey gathered from key cities around the country including Portland, Los Angeles, and New York – about 1 in 36 mobile phones were considered “high-risk” due to some form of breach in security. Yet, if we were to share this statistic with a group of 36 smartphone users, we would likely see 35 dismayed faces. Why?
Simply put, we hardly ever hear about the potential security threats that we can encounter while using the apps on our phones. Therefore, mobile application security is not something that most people think about on a regular basis, if at all. But, it should be.
Every time that we download a new app we are putting our data at risk of being exposed or stolen. Now, to understand the severity of this issue there are a series of misconceptions about mobile security that we must first address. Whether it’s for business or personal use, understanding the reality of mobile application security is the first step toward developing a plan to keep your data safe. Here’s what you need to know:
Misconception 1: My iPhone is Secure, Right?
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Recently, Apple has released a series of security-minded advertisements in an effort to show that iOS is designed with data security at its forefront. And, while the latest iOS does offer some handy data-privacy features, like allowing users to opt-out of app tracking, the sad truth is that no operating system is completely hack-proof.
In fact, just last month Apple issued an urgent security update for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS in order to correct a zero-day flaw that was thought to have been exploited. This was the thirteenth vulnerability that has affected Apple since the beginning of the year.
Now, this is by no means a jab at Apple, as iOS continuously proves to be among the most secure operating systems for mobile devices. However, it’s important to realize that even the most secure mobile platforms available today are still susceptible to malicious activity. Therefore, users must be made aware of the data risks associated with mobile devices and take the necessary precautions to protect their data.
Misconception 2: Apps Downloaded From Official App Stores are Secure
We are led to believe that just because an app is found on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store, it must be secure. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. While it is true that Apple and Google spend a profound amount of time and resources to ensure that their application marketplaces are free from malicious activity, it’s virtually impossible for these companies to neutralize every single threat at the moment of its inception.
Let’s think about it – as of 2021 Apple’s App Store has 1.96 million apps available for download, while the Google Play Store has just over 2.87 million. In addition, it’s estimated that the App Store adds approximately 1,000 new apps per day while the Google Play Store adds somewhere around 1,300. That’s a lot of apps.
So how do Apple and Google manage every single one of these apps? The answer is they don’t. With thousands of apps being added on a daily basis, it’s simply not feasible to ensure that no malicious programs squeeze through the cracks of the App Store. Therefore, individual users should proceed with caution, and research the company or developer before installing an app on their phone.
Misconception 3: I Deleted the App, so My Data is Gone
We saved the best for last as this is quite possibly the biggest misconception we’ll cover in this blog. For some reason, many users have the “out of sight, out of mind” mindset when it comes to the deletion of data, most likely due to the fact that they can no longer see it. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the IoT, it’s that no data is ever truly gone.
Sensitive data stored on mobile applications is no exception to this. What most users fail to realize is that even if we delete an app from our phone, our data from that app is still “alive” on the developer’s server. Of course, it may not bother some users that the developer still has access to their data, as most app developers will never look at that information again. However, in the event that said developer falls victim to a data breach, then all of that “deleted” data is now in the hands of the attacker.
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