7 Precautions to Protect Your Data from People and Apps

Can You Really Trust the Apps on Your Phone? Researchers say that more than 1,000 apps that "don't play by the rules" have access to a lot of your information. This includes apps that collect precise geolocation data and phone numbers without the owners' knowledge. It’s pretty creepy stuff, especially when you consider all the private and personal information on your phone: names, dates, passwords and credit card details, the location of everywhere you go. Photos of the people in your life. Unfortunately, even if an app is tracking you and you can block it, there is no foolproof protection in today's evolving world. An app that doesn't access your information today could turn into a bad app tomorrow when the company behind it is sold, changes direction, or is compromised by a flaw. We reached out to data privacy experts for their top tips to protect your personal data when using apps. Here are 7 suggestions from them. Use a password manager The strongest passwords are random strings of characters. A series of letters, numbers and symbols in no particular order are less likely to be used and more difficult for a computer to crack by brute force. The disadvantage is that these complex passwords are harder to remember. In such cases, it is more convenient to use a password manager application. Password managers keep all your passwords in an encrypted and password-protected application. They also generate and remember strong passwords. Apps like Google Chrome and Samsung's dedicated phone app save passwords for you. It's best to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If one account is compromised, all accounts are compromised. With a password manager, it's safest to have each of your accounts have a different, complex, and hard-to-crack password. Some will even generate passwords for you. Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi If, instead of using your mobile data, you are going to enter a public Wi-Fi network on your phone, experts recommend using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN can prevent your data from being hidden by others lurking on the same public network. It can also mask your data transmissions, prevent filtering and censorship on the internet, and give you access to a wider range of content around the world. For our purposes, it can protect you from entering a free public network that others can use to access your phone. When looking for a VPN, it's important to research the company to find out if it's well-known and reliable. The Apple App Store and Google Play Store are free, but there are VPN apps with some questionable content, so I recommend you investigate thoroughly. Regardless of how often you plan to use a VPN, it is important to read the service agreement to know what data may be collected and where it will be stored. Pay attention to app permissions Double-checking the permissions that apps ask for can save a lot of information. You should also ask yourself if it makes sense for an app to ask for certain permissions. An app that asks for access to data that is not relevant to its function poses a significant danger. For example, if you download a simple app for a calculator and the app wants access to your contact list and location, why would a calculator need to see your contact list and location? In addition to paying attention to the permissions you give an app, it's also important to monitor how your phone works after you download it, as malicious apps can run continuously in the background, causing drastic changes in your device's battery life. If you notice that your battery life is decreasing faster than usual after installing an app, this could be a sign that the app is useless and may be running in the background. Research the app or company While you can't tell in person whether an app has malicious motives, a quick Google search can provide more information. Experts suggested searching for the name of the app and the phrase "data scandal" or "scam". Hart said the results should tell you whether the company has experienced any privacy or data leaks. The search should also tell you if data breaches are common at this company and, if so, how they responded to them. If the company has been affected several times and has done nothing to fix the problem, stay away from the app because it shows that they don't take this issue seriously. Limit your social media logins Regardless of what the site wants in your profile, it is wise to limit the amount of information you share on social media. The more information you share, the more data that can generate ads for you. Only fill in the minimum amount of information needed, and you'll be less likely to suffer a data breach. Bobby Kittleberger, Head of Legal Software Assistance, told CNET: "When it comes to targeted advertising, smartphone apps are usually more sophisticated. There are even some concerns about programs that access your phone's microphone (presumably for more targeted advertising)," Bobby Kittleberger, President of Legal Software Assistance, told CNET. Keep software up-to-date Taking the time to update your smartphone's operating system (OS) is crucial to keeping your data safe. Updates keep you one step ahead of hackers and the latest exploits they spread over the internet. The methods criminals use to infiltrate your phone and steal your data are constantly evolving, so the way we protect our smartphones needs to change too. Only download apps from the Google and Apple stores Not all apps on the App Store or Google Play Store are 100% trustworthy, but experts still say you should only download apps from official stores rather than installing them from unsafe places. Apps available on these platforms will have been approved to ensure they meet a standard quality of data protection, and they will also be required to produce a privacy policy specifically for you, telling you how they protect your data. Downloading an app from an unofficial or unsecured site can lead to information theft, malware, spyware, and trojan infections. Remember that in the worst-case scenario, the hacker can take full control of your device.