Thursday, January 7, 2021

8 Apps Security Experts Would Never Have on Their Phone

It's time to take a look at your phone and clear out any apps that may be causing you more harm than good.



Hackers and spyware and breaches, oh my! 

Now more than ever, we rely on our phones for everything. From work to communication to play, it seems like all is just a phone tap away. But do you know how to keep yourself safe while using your personal device? The constant concern over security has been surfacing even more than usual lately news of compromised safety allegations against TikTok, the incredibly popular video-based social media app. With the U.S. government considering banning the app and the country of India already having done so, it’s time to take a look at your phone and clear out any other apps that may end up causing you more harm than good.

Google Assistant

Calling out constantly for Alexa, Google, and Siri may make it seem like you added three extra kids to your household. But how safe is this “virtual helper” technology anyway? While all of these apps pose security risks due to their constant listening tools, Google Assistant is the diciest. The problem? Google Assistant "is one of the most pervasive applications in existence. It collects not only behavioral data, but voice searches, and it can record them at any point in time, meaning any time you talk about something, these voice recordings can be tied directly to advertising on Google,” explains Dr. Leif-Nissen Lundbæk, co-founder and CEO of XAIN. The solution? Skip over enabling this virtual helper (or disable it if you currently have it on)


The legacy of WhatsApp is complicated, to say the least. The free text and voice messaging app is especially popular in Europe, as it provides free international calls over Wi-Fi and works on just about any type of phone or browser. Although the app claims to have advanced security features, it has had its fair share of safety problems. “WhatsApp has had some major security breaches with phishing texts and phone calls, that even though were ignored, still installed spyware,” says Laura Fuentes, operator of Infinity Dish. “It could surely become the worst of these applications in terms of privacy if they were to use conversation data to build precise user profiles,” Dr. Lundbæk agrees. So although WhatsApp isn’t the most dangerous app out there, if you personally don’t use it a lot to communicate it’s better to skip the download or delete it off your phone.

Facebook Messenger

Despite the promises made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in March 2019, Messenger still doesn’t provide end-to-end encryption by default. This means that unlike WhatsApp, Messenger does have access to all of your conversations and has the ability to store this data. And there’s more, too: “The Facebook Messenger app got a security risk rating of 7 for accessing user SMS, photos, contacts, and camera without permission,” says Allan Borch, founder of Dotcom Dollar. So for now, use another messaging app to make sure no one is eavesdropping on your conversations.

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is one gaming app you definitely shouldn’t have on your (or your child’s) phone. The app has serious security flaws that just don’t seem to make it worth the risk. “Pokémon Go was given a security rating of 7 because of its ability to access contacts, camera, and even the user’s location without permission,” Borch says. Fuentes agrees, also noting that there have been several security breaches on the app. This is one game where you’ll lose more than you can win.

Certain VPNs

A VPN creates a private network from a public Internet connection which is meant to ensure your safety while surfing the web. However, not all VPNs have your best interests at heart. HolaVPN is one that should never be downloaded due to security reasons. “When you are a free Hola user, you automatically allow other Hola users to reroute their Internet traffic through your computer and network. These other users will access and browse the Internet using your IP address. All their Internet activities will be linked to your unique IP address, which could get you into significant trouble depending on what those other users are doing online,” says David Janssen, founder of SuperVPN is another that is an easy target for hackers, and any Chinese VPNs pose the same security threats (if not more) as TikTok.

COVID-19 tracing apps

As if the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t done enough damage! Some large companies (most notably Apple and Google) have announced that they will be working to create contact tracing apps that will alert people if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. In addition to worries that this sort of technology would be a prime harvesting ground for hackers, there’s also a fear that people may accidentally download fraudulent tracing apps that look like they’re the real deal. “There are a lot of apps posing as legitimate government programs that are stealing people’s sensitive data and taking advantage of the stressful nature of this pandemic,” warns Colton De Vos, marketing specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions. If you happened to have downloaded one of these tracing apps, delete it right away!

Abandoned or unsupported apps

While this isn’t a specific app that experts want you to erase from your phone, they stress that it’s important to keep in mind that any app that has been “abandoned” by its creator or is unsupported needs to go. “Older apps represent a risk,” explains Phil Strazzula, CEO and founder of Select Software Reviews. “If the developers are not still supporting it, that means they’re not closing any security loopholes that have been discovered since the app’s creation.” Time to look into spring cleaning your phone: Out with the old, and in with the (safer) new.

Apps not purchased in your phone’s app store

Another general tip to follow: Don’t download an app unless it was purchased either on the Apple App store or Google Play store, depending on what type of phone you own. Again, this is more of a “better safe than sorry” technique. “This is not to say that Amazon’s app store is unsafe for anything other than a Fire device, as it isn’t. But the safeguards that have to be disabled to do so put your device at greater risk of malicious applications,” says Allan Buxton, Director of Forensics for SecureData.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to keep all of your online information safe, all of the time. The number one thing to remember: “Free apps are not free,” says Roger Lewis, CEO of CMIT Solutions. “They use your data for targeted advertising and data brokers.” So before downloading an app, make sure to read the user terms of agreement and ask yourself if what they want access to on your phone is reasonable. Stay alert, stay aware, and you’ll stay as secure as possible.

Read Lucie Turkel's complete article at

Thursday, August 6, 2020

9 rules for strong passwords: How to create and remember your login credentials

The security of your bank account, Netflix account and email inbox depends on how well you safeguard your many passwords.

The key to your online security is to have strong passwords, but the challenge is to create distinct passwords that you can actually remember -- or else you may fall into the bad habit of using the same login credentials for multiple accounts. According to LogMeIn, the company behind the LastPass password manager, you could very easily have 85 passwords for all your accounts once you count all of your social media, streaming, bank accounts and apps.

If your data is compromised, weak passwords can have serious consequences, like identity theft. Companies reported a staggering 5,183 data breaches in 2019 that exposed personal information such as home addresses and login credentials that could easily be used to steal your identify or commit fraud. And that pales in comparison with the more than 555 million stolen passwords that hackers on the dark web have published since 2017.

  • Use a password manager to keep track on your passwords
  • Yes, you can write your login credentials down. Really
  • Find out if your passwords have been stolen
  • Avoid common words and character combinations in your password
  • Longer passwords are better; 8 characters are a starting point
  • Don't recycle your passwords
  • Avoid using passwords known to be stolen
  • No need to periodically reset your password
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) ... but try to avoid text message codes
Get the details in Clifford Colby and Sharon Profis' article at

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Nasty malware could be hiding on your Android. Here's how to spot it

Swamped with ads? Don't recognize an app? Start here to deal with it.

Android malware can find ways to trick you. A mobile app called Ads Blocker, for instance, billed itself as a useful service for cutting back on pesky mobile ads, which can pop up to cover your screen just when you're about to access something important. But users would soon find the app was malware that just served up more ads, according to security researchers.

It's just one example of malware that can frustrate Android phone users, plaguing them with ads that the creators get paid to display, even when users are looking at unrelated apps. Malware often also harvests fake clicks on the ads, doubling up on the value for the makers.

"They're making money," said Nathan Collier, a researcher at internet security company Malwarebytes who helped identify the bogus ad blocker in November, "and that's the name of the game."

Researchers say adware like Ads Blocker is the most common type of malware on Android devices. Other malicious apps, however, can do worse things than make your phone so frustrating to use that you want to Hulk out and crush it -- like steal personal information from your phone. 

Malware can be disorienting, getting in the way of how you normally use your phone and making you feel uneasy even if you aren't sure what's causing the problem. It's also very common; Malwarebytes says it found close to 200,000 total instances of malware on its customers' devices in May and then again in June. So how do you know if you have malware on your phone, and how can you stop it? Here are some takeaways from mobile malware experts on what you can do.

  • How Malware on your phone works
  • Signs of Malware
  • Ransomware on Android Phones
  • What mobile malware is capable of
  • How to stop mobile malware on your Android phone

Monday, July 13, 2020

Shopping more online? Take heed to these 7 simple safety tips

While COVID-19 is hurting in-store traffic for most American retailers, e-commerce sites have experienced a huge surge in activity.

Amazon, for example, reported a 26% jump in revenue during the first three months of 2020, especially after stay-at-home orders were first introduced, compared to the same period a year ago.

The trend continued – nay, accelerated – well into the spring, with data from Adobe Analytics’ Digital Economy Index suggesting all U.S. online sales have increased by as much as 49% in April compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers.

But, as you might suspect, with this spike in online shopping comes a stark increase in problems from it, says the Federal Trade Commission.

In April and May 2020, the FTC received more than 34,000 complaints from consumers related to online shopping, many of which were tied to ordered items not received. The May numbers alone represent a nearly twofold increase over the number of reports received during the busy holiday shopping season last December. Other issues were tied to receiving an incorrect or damaged item, misleading product information and fraud.

And so, to ensure a smooth online shopping experience, take heed to these following seven safety tips:

  1. Look for the lock (a secure internet connection)
  2. Pay securely
  3. Update your software
  4. Do your homework
  5. Dig for the data
  6. Use good passwords; avoid scams [I don' think 7 characters is a strong enough password. I'd suggest at least 10 characters.]
  7. Don't shop in a hotspot

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Is your Google Home or Nest secure? How to find and delete your private data

With Google Home or Nest in your house, you've got an always-on voice assistant that regularly records audio and almost always sends it to Google. Are you OK with that?

Relying on Google Home to organize your digital life requires something of a trade-off with regards to your personal data, but that doesn't mean you have to give up your sense of privacy just to get your smart speaker to work for you. It's totally possible, through a combination of security settings and responsible privacy practices, to minimize the amount and kind of data you share with Google yet still take advantage of Google Home's hands-free conveniences. The key is knowing how much information your Google Home can live without without becoming useless.

Starting in June, new Google accounts will automatically delete private data for you. But only after 18 months by default. And only if you're a brand new Google user. That's great if you're setting up your first Google Home device or Gmail address or you just got your first Android phone, but if you're among the 1.5 billion people on Gmail or the 2.5 billion people using Android already, your account is set to hold onto your private data forever unless you tell Google otherwise.

If you love using your Google Home but want to control how many voice recordings or how much location information and other personal data Google keeps, these are the settings that you'll need to adjust to fine-tune your privacy controls.

  • Check which options you've enabled
  • Look up everything Google Assistant has on you
  • Delete some or all of your private data
  • Choose how often your private data will be deleted
  • The most extreme privacu option: Pause all activity

Thursday, May 14, 2020

This Is How Often You Should Restart Your Phone

We live and die by our cell phone, rarely giving it the chance to reboot and refresh. But are you harming the device without knowing it? We asked the experts.

For many of us, our smartphones have become a touchstone of life. It affects how we do our jobs, interact with our friends and family, and even how we access important information like our banking, and healthcare. But are you taking proper care of it? Experts say that knowing simple care tips, such as how often to shut it down, can drastically affect how well your phone will continue to perform the older it gets. That means the simple knowledge of when to turn it on and off, can cost you hundreds of dollars in prematurely replacing your phone.

But just how often do we need to shut off our smartphones? As opposed to how often you need to shut down your computer, your smartphone has a more hard and fast rule you should live by: once a week, shut it off, let it rest at least one minute, and then you can fire it back up.

Get all the details in A

Thursday, April 16, 2020

5 things not to do when coronavirus quarantine and lockdown end

When will the coronavirus quarantine, shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders end? This question has escaped countless lips as countries, states and cities shift to indoor living to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Some of us are getting restless, imagining the people we'll hug, parties we'll throw and places we'll travel.

Not so fast. As the first signs of easing are starting to play out around the world, it's good to remember this is new territory for everyone and there's much we still don't know about the long-term behavior of this particular coronavirus strain.

Different governments and agencies are sure to have their own cadence for reintegrating and going back to business as usual, including taking a phased approach that slowly relaxes some measures while keeping an eye out for spikes in new coronavirus cases.

One thing's for sure -- your lifestyle won't return to "normal" all at once. While we won't know for certain what will or won't be allowed until those measures arrive, there are some common-sense codes that we don't see going away any time soon.
  • Don't throw a party or hit the bars
  • Don't stop washing your hands
  • Don't immediately visit high-risk people
  • Don't plan a big international vacation
  • Don't sell your home office and home workout equipment
Get all the details in Jessica Dolcourt's article at