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Can quiz apps pose a threat to your Android security?

Various Android quiz apps extract data from users. Can Android quiz apps be dangerous? Learn how to protect yourself.

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Android apps are great, especially for passing time in a boring waiting room or while traveling. They have made our lives much more fun and convenient. Millions of users download such apps on a daily basis. Who doesn’t like a good game of trivia, right?

Well, have you ever wondered why those apps ask for permission to access certain data from your device? Users need to give permission so that they could use the application. Imagine the amount of information such apps get every day. Where does that data go? Can it be used to compromise users’ privacy and security? Let’s find out.

What Information Do Android Quiz Apps Have Access to?

A lot of people are confused when they see a regular quiz app asking for permission to access data such as their gallery, text messages, and location. Most apps do require certain permissions to function properly. Here is a list of permissions that a lot of quiz apps ask for:

  • Permission to read your text messages
  • Full network access
  • Permission to read phone status and identity
  • Superuser permission
  • Modify or delete the contents of your storage
  • Permission to read your location

That’s a lot more information than a normal quiz app should require. Why would a quiz app need permission to read your text messages or require superuser permission? Well, the creators of quiz apps that ask for this usually don’t have good intentions.

Users often fly by the permissions part and click allow to access the game and enjoy playing it as soon as possible. However, that’s not a smart move. Users should stay careful and check what information such apps require.

Why Shouldn’t You Give Such Permissions?

Quiz apps are rather easy to make if someone has some knowledge of creating a basic app. The interface is usually simple and easy to create. Now, a lot of people have realized that there’s big money involved in selling user data.

Many marketing agencies are willing to buy data to optimize their advertising. Also, sometimes, large companies want to acquire a large amount of user data to target a specific customer base.

There was an incident that occurred back in 2018 when a third-party quiz app called “NameTests” left the data of 120 million users exposed to anyone who knew how to search for it.

They would provide an access token that allowed the app to access users’ photos, posts, devices, date of birth, and friend lists. If the user accessed another website, the app would allow the website to download a JAVA file that contained all the previously collected information. This case exposed the quiz app industry and left many in shock.

There was also another case with Cambridge Analytica, which bought data on tens of millions of US citizens. What’s even worse is the fact that they bought it from Facebook. They collected all that data without users’ permission and used it for political advertising.

Those examples are just two out of many that have occurred and that are yet to occur.

Unless they don’t mind having their personal information on blast for shady companies to access, users should think twice before giving out any permission to apps, especially ones that had been downloaded from non-reputable sources.

3 Major Reasons Why Android Quiz Apps Pose a Security Risk

It’s safe to say that quiz apps can pose a security risk. Besides selling user information, there are a lot of other ways that malicious people and companies can abuse users’ privacy. Let’s go more in-depth on various methods that are often used to abuse such information.

  1. Superuser

    Some quiz apps may require a phone root before they can be used. That’s a huge red flag. Why? First of all, why would a plain quiz app require a phone root? Rooting is the process of allowing Android users to access privileged control of Android subsystems.

    That also includes gaining superuser access, which would allow to administer the system and make changes. Users should never root their phones unless they know exactly what they’re doing - especially not if a random quiz app is asking them to do so.

    Some apps, such as ROM Manager need root and superuser access because they require special permissions to perform their job. Now, if a user’s phone has already been rooted, then they have to take extra care with giving out permissions. Users should never allow quiz apps to root their phones, let alone give them superuser access.

  2. Data Mining

    There is a saying in the cybersecurity world that reads as follows: “If the product is free, you’re the product.” To put it plainly, that means that nothing is free. If a user downloads a free quiz app, there’s a high chance that the app is getting something in return.

    Information is a currency and a well-paid one at that. So, a lot of people create quiz apps just to be able to collect as much user data as possible and sell that information.

    Besides selling, they can also use users’ phones for data mining. Data mining is the process of finding patterns within larger data sets to predict outcomes, i.e., increase revenues, cut costs, spot sales trends, and reduce risks.

    Data mining in and of itself is not illegal. However, it is often performed without users’ knowledge, so it’s highly unethical. Many quiz apps mine users’ data even when they aren’t using the app. People should be aware of this. What if their information falls into the wrong hands?

  3. Malware

    Recently, there was a malware campaign that infected over 200 Android apps with more than 250 million downloads. The malware started to forcefully display adverts and enabled the culprit to remotely install apps on user devices. What for? So that they could inject even more malware into their phones.

    They uploaded affected users’ contact lists and phone numbers to Chinese servers. Many people use their phone number for two-step verification. By owning the numbers of millions of users, criminals can create huge damage and affect users’ security and privacy.

    Just like any other Android app, quiz apps are also prone to these exploits. For that reason, you should always make sure to download them only from reputable sources and avoid shady apps.

Can You Protect Yourself?

All of this might seem very scary and confusing. But don’t fret. As there are multiple ways to exploit users, there are also a lot of ways to prevent such exploits. By following these simple steps, users can relax and safely enjoy their trivia and quizzes. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Download Apps Only from Reputable Sources

    This is a very important point. ALWAYS download apps from reputable sources. Many shady websites offer free cracked versions of paid apps that can also be found on Play Store. However, even though a free app might seem enticing, bear in mind that cracked apps have been altered. Who knows what code or software could have been added to that app.

    It’s better to pay a couple of dollars and get the quiz app of your choice, instead of risking your privacy and security for an app that might not even work. Always be careful with your downloads.

  2. Check Permissions

    Just like people often scroll through Terms of Service without reading them, Android users also install apps and click “allow” without checking what permissions they give. You’ve seen what information some quiz apps require from their users, and not all of it makes sense. A plain quiz app shouldn’t have access to your text messages or contact lists.

    Users should always read which permissions are required before accepting. If an app is asking for too much information, just don’t install it. Prevention is the key because once they gain access to your Android system, it’s hard to completely get rid of it.

  3. Use a VPN

    A VPN is one of the best modern tools for ensuring user safety on the internet. A VPN for Android will allow you to browse securely and it will encrypt all user traffic. It will also mask your location and ensure safe data transfer to and from their devices.

    When data is sent from a user’s device, the source IP address will be an address provided by the VPN service, instead of an actual user’s IP address. So, if a hacker wanted to gain access to your IP address, instead of attacking yours, they would attack a virtual IP address. Pretty convenient.

    Even though there are enough risks involved in using quiz apps, not all Android quiz apps have malicious intentions or want to steal user data. The main takeaway from this text should be awareness. Users should be aware of potential threats and risks as well as prevention steps they can take to avoid anything bad from happening.

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