A study by researchers at Boston’s Northeastern University has highlighted some worrying findings. Some of the most popular Android apps might be actively sending data on your mobile phone usage to third parties. This tracking includes listening to you, taking screenshots, and monitoring your mobile phone habits. David Choffnes, a professor at Northeastern, said:
“We found that every app has the ability to record your screen and anything you type.”
The researchers looked at 17,260 Android apps, taken from Google Play, AppChina, Mi.com, and Anzhi, and discovered that some of them were snooping on users in various ways. For example, around 9,000 apps requested permission to use the phone’s camera or microphone. Of those 9,000 apps, 12 were sending screenshots of what the user was doing to app developers or malicious third parties.
The apps that were snooping on users could only do so using permissions they had been given by the user. This means that you need to be extra careful when you’re agreeing to permission requests from apps you’re downloading. This also goes for browser extensions and email plugins.
The researchers also pointed out that although the study was carried out on Android apps there is no reason to believe that apps on other operating systems like iOS wouldn’t exhibit similar behavior. Make sure you’re extra vigilant of the permissions you’re granting apps when downloading new programs. As always with these problems, your vigilance is the first line of defense.