Smartphones have truly changed the way we communicate, share, work, and navigate our daily lives. A great deal of what we can do on our phones is thanks to mobile apps: they transform our smartphone into a handheld version of our computer and lets us perform a wide variety of tasks. But even with the most important technological achievements, there is always a certain drawback – and it seems that with many smartphones, apps might be a backdoor for hackers to access our data.
Application Security is Essential for Smartphone Users
Application security is one of the biggest concerns in the online world, and not just for smartphones. Several functions on websites are performed thanks to web applications, which are also vulnerable to hacker attacks. To prevent them, web application security is dealt with through a web application firewall, which filters traffic and protects against malicious requests like SQL injections and XSS attacks. However, with mobile apps, things can get a bit trickier. Cybersecurity is an issue for users to consider and take steps to make sure that their smartphone is not selling them short – whether by updating their OS, installing applications that boost security or by reviewing apps extensively before downloading them.
It seems though that user security might be at stake even for people who only use trusted sources to download their apps. Research conducted by scholars from the University of Michigan revealed that many apps found on Google Play inadvertently contained a flaw. These apps allow the smartphone to establish a direct connection with a computer in order to transfer files and do other tasks. However, in the process of doing so, the apps seemed to let open ports unattended - an open invitation to hackers looking to gain access to the smartphones and the data they hold.
Is Your Smartphone Vulnerable to Hackers?
The researchers concluded that the Android software reflected the open port functionality of older PCs, but in the case of mobile applications, this can be extremely dangerous. In order to determine the scope of the problem, they analyzed the code behind some 100,000 of the most downloaded apps on Google Play. They concluded that 1,632 mobile apps included the open port functionality that rendered them vulnerable to malicious attacks, while an additional 410 provided an insufficient level of security.
They narrowed this down to 57 apps and they identified the possibility of open ports being used by hackers through a Wi-Fi network or by other apps tapping into the device through the open ports - or even by scripts that run on the background of a website visit. It seems that most of the apps found vulnerable had been developed for sharing purposes. They would allow for direct connection with a computer to transfer photos, use the smartphone as a hotspot, or even send SMS from a PC. One of these apps, called WiFi File Transfer, has more than 10 million downloads – which means that literally millions of users are at risk.
Mobile apps can be very helpful in many essential and everyday tasks, but they can also sometimes render us more vulnerable than we expect, which is why it is really important to choose them wisely.