We now spend a staggering 86% of our mobile time on apps, according to the latest stats. Downloading apps and clicking “ok” when asked for access to our mobile lives has become second nature for most people. Immediate gratification and entertainment are trumping our better judgment in some cases and giving a leg up to cyber thieves.
For parents, any consequence doubles. With your kids likely spending a hearty chunk of time on apps, your family’s security becomes two- to three-times more vulnerable to spy or malware (you + the # of kids you have downloading apps = double risk to all).
I recently downloaded an emoji-type app for my iPhone and the warning that popped up before the download made my eyes pop out (see photo, right).
When an app collects your data in exchange for that free or low-cost download how can you be certain the developers are legit, their safeguards are solid, and that your entire phone (including your conversations) won’t be exploited by a crook? The short answer is: you can’t. While security for the majority of apps is trustworthy, developers are not perfect nor are their apps. Most everything is hackable, and human nature is flawed, which leaves the charge on us to be critical (not casual) clickers.
It’s time for an app pow wow. Here are five questions to teach your kids to ask before downloading an app.
5 Key Questions to Ask About that App
- Should I be using this app? It’s a simple question but because tweens and teens download apps because “everyone else is using it” makes this question pertinent and a reminder to consider privacy and safety when downloading.
- Who developed this app? Your app store may include information about the company that developed an app in its description. However, if the app is missing a contact name, website or email, it may not be a trustworthy app.
- Who is using this app? Check out the customer reviews in the app store and Google reviews to see if there have been any complaints. Be sure the reviews are legitimate. Look for typos or poor grammar, which could be a sign of a fake review. No reviews at all? Also not a good sign.
- What information am I handing over? Nothing is free. Many apps ask for access to your contacts, your phone number, calendar, or location. Be sure to talk to your kids about slowing down to consider every question being asked—no matter how excited they are about the app.
- Does the app explain what I’m permitting? Reading the permissions section of an app isn’t the first thing on the fun list but you may be glad you did. Often we are giving an app some pretty strange things, so you have to weigh the exchange. This video from the #PrivacyProject does a great job of explaining the app privacy issue.
Has your phone been hit?
One sign that your phone has been infected with malware is that it may send out random texts or emails you did not create. Some malware will drain your battery, transfer your data to a third party, or cause your phone bill to spike. You might also notice apps on your phone you did not download. If your suspect malware go through your apps and uninstall just about every app, you may even have to restore your phone settings entirely. For future protection, be sure to keep the app privacy conversation going and download a mobile security app.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).
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