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 more of late since news of compromised safety allegations against TikTok, the incredibly popular video-based social media app. The Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to ban the app in the US in 2020. While India has banned the app. Now 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.
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. A quick rundown: the ‘Google Assistant’ feature can be enabled through the Google app on any smartphone or tablet that runs on at least Android 5.0. The problem? “This is one of the most pervasive applications in existence. It collects not only behavioural 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) and play that video of cute puppies (or whatever else you may be searching) on your own.
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, such as end-to-end encryption so that messages can only be viewed by the sender and recipient, 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. Better to be safe than sorry!
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