Since 2016 and the wake of the Cambridge-Analytica Scandal, people are paying much more attention to the privacy of their data. For years, developers took for granted that users would give them blanket permission to access everything from their location to contacts, calendar, and more. Access to all this data is not only intrusive but also presents serious security risks to users. Here is a handful of the most serious threats users need to be aware of and what steps they can take to protect themselves.
Times have changed very quickly. If you asked people in 2000 whether they would be comfortable with a random company knowing where they’ve been, who they talk to, what they do for fun, and other personal details, and then sell that information to advertisers—the answer would be a definite no. Even now, if users fully understood how much information they gave away, they’d still likely say no. But every time you download a new app, that’s exactly what happens.
Some people might not care. They are happy to use an app and give out whatever personal information because they “have nothing to hide.” Everybody has secrets, but more importantly, nobody wants to get hacked. Third-party developers and even huge companies like Google and Facebook routinely get hacked. Then all your personal information falls into the hands of people who can steal credit card details and even identities.
3) Battery Life and Background Processes
Have you ever noticed that phone battery drains very quickly? That’s because even when you don’t use many apps, they are running in the background. This hogs not only battery life but also memory affecting performance. Apps that always have location access are the worst offenders in both of these categories.
How Do You Stay Safe?
For privacy, security, performance, and battery life, it’s essential to know what permissions each app has. Under settings, select permissions and check out your different apps. Each will access different features so it may take a little time to calibrate your device accordingly.
Which Permissions Should You Allow or Deny?
Sometimes this can be a little tricky. For example, a few years ago, there was a rash of flashlight apps that went way beyond switching a light on and off. Instead, they gained access through permission to contact data, microphone access, and more to harvest data and possibly exploit security flaws.
In general, reputable developers only request permissions for relevant features. For example, Skype will request a camera and microphone access. However, this should not be a green light for complete access because even the best developer may use data extraction for harvesting purposes. Instead, use your common sense.
For example, messaging apps will need to use your contacts, camera, and microphone, but won’t need your health details. You’ll need to do a little trial and error. Some apps may not function properly with certain features disabled.
Follow This Essential Security Protocol
With certain apps, you may be forced to allow access across the board even if you don’t want to. When it comes to major players like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and others, you don’t have many options. It’s either allow access or don’t use one of the most popular apps in the world. Since even these massive companies get hacked, you still need to find ways to protect yourself.
One of the main ways hackers gain information is through IP addresses. They can breach a Facebook server, check IP addresses, and then hack computers accordingly. The best way to prevent this is by enabling a VPN on all your devices. A VPN or a virtual private network utilizes encryption technology to anonymize IP addresses and enhance digital safety. Thus, even if a company gets hacked, your IP address is still safe.
Providers that offer no log VPNs go one step further. With a traditional VPN, you connect to a third-party server which then connects to your target website. However, they may leave a record of your browsing history on their server so if they are attacked, hackers can trace it back to you. With a VPN that colleącts no logs, there’s no browsing history providing you with even higher levels of security and privacy.
Bonus: Prevent Advertisers and Platform from Using Your Data Against You
With a VPN, you have the benefit of both randomizing your IP address and changing your server location. This can be extremely useful as many advertisers and platforms will you use your browsing history against you. For example, if you visit a flight booking site, multiple times, the platform might start increasing ticket prices because it thinks you’re very interested in going somewhere. With a VPN, you get a fresh start every time saving you money on all kinds of goods and services.
Security and Privacy are in Your Hands
The good news is that since Cambridge-Analytica and a few other related scandals, companies now must be much more transparent about how they handle your data. The same goes with app permissions. So take a little time to check the permissions on all your devices. Remember, it’s not just about your privacy but also security and phone battery life and performance.
By only allowing apps to access relevant features, you start putting control back in your hands. However, this also needs to be combined with strong tools like VPNs, which secure your network connections and increase your level of privacy and security. And you’ll have the bonus of retailers and platforms not using your browsing history to raise prices and goods and services.