When the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica data scandal broke out in March 2018 , it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people ’ s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes.
Although Cambridge Analytica faced severe backlash and eventually shut down its operations in May 2018, data privacy experts believe there are still many smartphone apps out there that are breaching users ’ privacy and mining their data.
These apps gather the users ’ precise data, such as location , names, important dates , password and credit card information , without the owners ’ knowledge .
Data privacy experts say there is no way to tell at face value if an app is tracking a smartphone user; however , they suggest the following tips to protect one ’ s personal data when using apps .
Use a password manager
The strongest passwords are random strings of characters .
A series of letters, numbers and symbols in no particular order is less likely to be found in the dictionary and harder for a computer to crack with brute force.
The downside is that these complex passwords are much harder to remember and this is where a password manager app comes in handy.
We According to Joe Baker, an IT Systems Administrator at Anderson Technologies, password managers keep all your passwords in one encrypted and password-protected app .
They also generate and remember strong passwords .
It ’ s also best to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
If one account is compromised in a data breach , all the accounts are compromised .
With a password manager, each one of a user ’ s accounts can have a different, complex and hard- to – crack password .
Use a VPN on public Wi- Fi
If you ’ re going to use a public Wi – Fi network instead of using your mobile data , experts suggest using a virtual private network.
A VPN can keep your data from being snooped on by other people lurking on the same public network.
They can also mask your data transmissions, avoid filtering and censorship on the Internet and allow you to access a wider variety of content around the world .
When looking for a VPN provider , which can be downloaded from both Apple Store (iOS ) and Google Play Store (Android ), it is important to research the company to find out if it ’ s well – known and trustworthy .
Regardless of how frequently you plan to use a VPN , it ’ s important to read through the service agreement to know what data might be collected and where it will be stored .
Be mindful of app permissions
Always double check which permissions an app is asking for. An app asking for access to data that isn ’ t relevant to its function is a major warning sign .
For instance , be wary if you are downloading a simple app for a pocket calculator and the app is requesting access to your contact list and location , said the CEO of Cardswitcher , Stephen Hart. “
Requests like that should ring some alarm bells . ”
In addition to paying attention to permissions that you grant to an app , it ’ s also important to monitor how your phone behaves after you download it , said Shlomie Liberow , a technical programme manager and security expert at HackerOne .
Liberow said drastic changes in your device ’ s battery life after downloading an app were a red flag because malicious apps can constantly run in the background .
He stated that how to keep an app ’ s permissions in check was to search the name of the app and the phrase “ data scandal ” or “scam ” on Google .
The results should tell if the company has experienced any recent privacy or data leaks .
Limit social media exposure
Experts suggest it ’ s wise to limit the amount of information you share on social media, regardless of what the site asks for on your profile .
The more information you share , the more data that’ s available to create advertisements for you .
Only fill out the absolute minimum amount of information necessary .
The more information you share , the more you are at risk in the event of a data breach.
Keep software up to date
Making time to update your smartphone ’ s operating system is critical to keeping your data safe, according to data privacy experts .
The updates let you stay a step ahead of hackers and the latest exploits they are spreading across the Internet .
Hart suggested adjusting your phone ’ s settings so it will update automatically.
“ Think of software updates like vaccinations for your smartphone , ” Hart said .
“The methods that criminals use to hack into phones and steal data are constantly evolving , so the ways that we protect our smartphones need to evolve too. ”
Only download apps from Google and Apple ’ s stores
Not all the apps in the Apple’ s App Store or Google ’ s Play Store are 100 per cent trustworthy , but experts believe one should only download from the official stores , rather than side- load an app .
Downloading an app from unofficial or insecure sites increases the risk of ransomware, malware, spyware and trojan viruses infecting device, according to Hart. He said in the worst- case scenario , a hacker could take full control of one ’ s device .
In addition to avoiding apps that are the only one a developer has produced , another expert , Baker , encouraged users to see how long an app had been available and take a look at the reviews before downloading.
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