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Why most mobile apps can’t be trusted

Christina Medici Scolaro
Big Data Download
Why most mobile apps can’t be trusted

Apps are everywhere—and so are the security risks related to them. Appthority, a mobile app security firm, analyzed 400 of the most popular paid and free apps on mobile devices, on both on iOS and Android platforms, and found staggering results.

Appthority’s “Summer 2013 App Reputation report" determined that a whopping 83 percent of mobile apps pose some sort of security risk.

The report found iOS apps exhibited more risky behaviors than Android apps overall. Ninety-one percent of iOS apps exhibit at least one risky behavior, compared to 80 percent of Android apps.

Risks included, for instance, apps sending private user information to third-party services, such as ad network firms.

Appthority said both free and paid apps support sharing data with ad networks as a method of generating revenue, even if it means putting user and corporate data at risk.

Thirty-nine percent of paid iOS and 16 percent of paid Android apps still share data with ad networks, according to Appthority.

In addition, even though paid apps already generate revenue when downloaded, 59 percent of paid iOS and 24 percent of paid Android apps still support in-app purchasing.

Appthority also discovered “several popular iOS apps that access the unique device identifier (UUDI), even though Apple strictly prohibits that activity because UDIDs can be linked back to the private user information and activity as they navigate across apps.” Seventy-eight percent of popular free Android apps identify the UDID.

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Domingo Guerra, co-founder and president of Appthority, said it’s important for people to know who developed or created the apps they use.

Appthority found that only 4 to 5 percent of all apps are developed by trusted sources, such as Apple, Google, Disney or George CL. The other 95 percent of apps could be developed by anyone—leaving users at risk of getting hit with excessive spam, or having their phone number and email exposed. The firm also found that 72 percent of the top free apps and 41 percent of paid apps track the user’s location.

Appthority said wallpapers are one of the more popular types of apps that can put a device at risk. Appthority recently reported on fake “Disney” princess wallpaper apps on Google Play. After users downloaded Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine or other wallpapers, devices were hit with excessive spam, bombarded with adult-content themed pop-up ads, and personal information was sent to multiple adware networks.

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