The address book on your smartphone may not be as safe as you think

By admin
10 September 2015

Are your apps accessing your personal information?

Smartphones are becoming smarter and scarier.

Even though it’s incredibly convenient to store all of your personal information on your smartphone, we all need to be more careful about how we save things…

In particular, the contacts list on your smartphone may not be as safe as you think – and this is especially true for Apple and Android devices.

In 2012, The New York Times warned that apps like Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram were collecting data from users personal address books. Certain app developers even had user’s personal information stored on computers.

Read more: The 25 worst passwords of 2015 are so easy to guess it’s ridiculous

Apple, which is responsible for approving all apps in the iTunes store, found themselves in hot water when many of apps were found guilty of accessing users contact lists -- despite the fact that their regulations strictly prohibited it.

Apple’s response was to demand that all apps first obtain a user's permission in order to access their contact details. Google for Android also recently declared that software developers needed to get permission to access app user’s personal information.

“It’s a new industry and it’s still in many ways the Wild West out there,” said Kevin Mahaffey chief technology official at Lookout, when describing the smartphone software industry.

Read more: ‘Password’ no longer the internet’s worst password

Four years later and the proverbial Wild West hasn’t changed much.

But why is it such a risk to store sensitive information in your address book? Mostly because of the format that the information is stored in: plain text. Plain text isn’t encrypted or formatted and is therefore easily accessed. This is why it would be child’s play for a hacker to access this information.

But what can you do if you want to store a secret password or something of a sensitive nature on your cell phone?

Make sure you have a good password manager on your smartphone, especially if you have many passwords to keep track of and they’re constantly changing.

Tech website PCMag.com released a list of seven of the best password management apps in 2016. And in a world where hackers view your password as a challenge you need to forget about using basic passwords like 1234 or qwerty.

Clever online scams can also make you believe that they are the real deal when they request your password. The golden rule is to always err on the side of caution but if you’re unsure Google is always on hand to help. Websites like hoax-slayer.com and snopes.com are also helpful in identifying a scam.

Read more: Your smartphone’s battery level could be used to track you online

If a password manager sounds too complicated for you can also simply store your list of passwords in a document on your computer.

Wired.com says that even a list of passwords written on a piece of paper is safer than it would be on your smartphone.

Read more: Smartphones ‘are going to die out within five years’

“The absolute worst is a digital file unprotected, not encrypted, that’s on your phone and may be synced with your laptop,” warns Jeff Paradise, chief marketing officer at the data management company Dashlane.

Developers warn that although a list of passwords saved in your contact list is easy for you to access it is also vulnerable to hackers.

Sources: pcmag.com, wired.com, nytimes.com

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