AMU Cyber & AI Original

Mobile App Security and Ensuring the Mobile Apps You Download Are Safe

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

Mobile apps serve a wide variety of useful functions. They allow smartphone users to pay bills, order meals, track their physical fitness, read books, listen to music or podcasts, find traffic, record information and play games.

The use of smartphones keeps rising. The global data company Stastia estimates that by 2022, the number of smartphone users in the U.S. will exceed 270 million people.

However, using mobile apps has its cybersecurity risks. According to Brandon Jones of PSafe, some mobile apps are infected with bots that interfere with the performance of your smartphone or tablet computer. Other apps gain access to your personally identifiable information or to your bank accounts.

Signs That Mobile Apps Have Infected Your Smartphone or Tablet

There are certain telltale signs that indicate when you’ve downloaded a malicious mobile app. Here are some common warning signs of malware infection:

  • Your phone’s speed slows down.
  • The battery needs recharging more frequently.
  • Incoming or outgoing phone calls get dropped.
  • Your apps crash more often.
  • New apps that you didn’t download appear on your phone.
  • Your data usage increases, resulting in a higher phone bill.

What’s Being Done to Ensure Mobile App Security?

Both Google and Apple are working hard to further improve mobile app security. According to Clearbridge Mobile, Google says that “Apps will no longer be able to access a user’s system data or device features without explicit permission. This requirement will enforce stricter protection from malware and promote enhanced overall security.”

Google will also change how a smartphone’s operating system will trust user-added certificate authorities (CAs). Previously, an operating system trusted CAs by default. The change to a standard protocol for integrating trusted system CAs will help to ensure more secure apps.

In addition, Google introduced the Google Play Security Reward Program in 2017. Qualified security researchers can earn a bounty of $1,000 to $5,000 for identifying vulnerabilities in Android apps and reporting them to Google.

As for Apple, its operating system has multiple layers of protection built into it. Also, apps are signed, verified and sandboxed (siloed) to protect user data.

Owners of iPhones and iPads commonly obtain new mobile apps through the Apple Store. Unlike Google Play apps, apps on the Apple Store are not open-source, which reduces the risk of a malware infection.

Similar to Google, Apple offers an Apple Security Bounty to qualified researchers. These researchers must clearly report the problem and provide working proof of security vulnerabilities to obtain a bounty. The bounty ranges from $25,000 to $200,000 and is awarded at Apple’s discretion.

Checking the Safety of Mobile Apps

There are several ways to ensure that your smartphone and tablet remain safe from infected apps. Lifewire recommends the following precautions:

  • Only download apps from reputable stores.
  • Check app ratings and read app reviews to see if others have provided warnings about the app.
  • Make sure your smartphone or tablet has strong antivirus protection.

If you own an iPhone or iPad, be sure to create a secure password for your Apple ID as an extra security precaution.

Common Sense and Effort Are Helpful in Protecting Your Electronic Devices

Using your own common sense to determine when your device’s performance doesn’t seem normal and taking the extra effort to check out mobile apps are your best forms of protection. While it’s easy to get excited about what you’ll do with a new mobile app, double-checking that the app is safe to use is worth your time.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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