Apps that Spy on Other Apps

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Out of all the hacking and privacy concerns that we have to worry about on practically daily basis, this one definitely takes the cake. As if the NSA’s collaboration with big tech companies to conduct covert surveillance activities wasn’t enough, now users of smart devices have to worry about apps present on their own devices keeping tabs on other apps.

Security researchers have discovered a serious exploit in popular mobile operating systems like Windows Phone, Android and iOS which can be accessed by several sinister apps that operate quietly in the background and monitor the information stored in popular apps like Chase Bank, Gmail and H&R Block among several others.

How Does it Happen?

It begins as any regular app installation ought to begin. The user downloads and installs an app which appears to be harmless on the surface, for instance a wallpaper app. However, beneath the surface the app has malicious code that enables it to execute a subroutine in the background that accesses the smartphone’s shared memory bank and then logs what a user is typing or doing on his or her device in real-time. This can range from any number of activities from sending confidential business texts, to taking photographs or even making a video.

In a recently released YouTube video, security researchers revealed the internal functioning of such an app and how they steal security credentials like the username and password from apps like the H&R Block app. In addition to stealing login information these apps have the ability to store social security numbers which are required to check tax return. In case of Chase Bank, when a user takes a picture of the check, the hacker monitoring the malicious app can pull out the copy of the check. What’s worse is that these apps don’t require any special permission to gain access to the shared memory bank.

How Do I Take Countermeasures?

The first among the tell-tale signs whether your app has malicious intent is by observing its permissions. Apps like Facebook ask for a lot more permissions as compared to these pointless apps that do less of what they are originally advertised to do and masquerade more as spies keeping tabs on your device.

According to ComScore 65% of smartphone users don’t download apps frequently choosing instead to spend the bulk of their time on their one favorite app. However, tech savvy users who like exploring new apps need to take appropriate countermeasures to prevent their phone from getting infected. Users are advised to never leave their phone unattended and always keep their devices password protected. Our phones carry everything from our personal information to confidential business information – data that can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

Furthermore users are advised to back up all valuable data on regular basis to prevent loss in case their device’s security is compromised. Installing reliable antivirus software can amp up smartphone security significantly and help identify apps that can prove to be a threat to the device.

In a bid to do just that, antivirus giant Norton has decided to consolidate all its antivirus solutions under one roof – Norton Security. The app currently offers security for devices powered by Android, Windows and iOS.

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