Thursday, 17 October, 2019

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Does Your Mobile App Need That Permission?

With close to one million apps available to both iOS and Android, users are spoiled with choices by all the low cost and free apps available to them.

This is one of the biggest reasons that smartphones have been so hugely successful. Five years ago, apps were simple and straight forward like calculators and alarm clocks. Now as smartphones and tablets have gotten more sophisticated, apps have become more complex with a much wider variety of tasks they can accomplish.

However, before installing one of these life changing marvels you must navigate through the requests giving the application access to your phone’s hardware and often personal data. Even though this is required in order to get the application to work some pause should be taken before doing so. This step is a security feature informing you about actions the app might be able to perform if installed. Even though it isn't possible to selectively allow certain permissions, you are still given the choice not to install the application if you feel uncomfortable about it.

When presented a list of permissions, many users don’t bother to read them. Most often blindly accept them assuming that the application has been well vetted by others. On the other hand there are many users who worry constantly about rogue apps spamming their friends or crashing their phone that they are reluctant to install any apps at all. So what are some best practices when trying to decide what apps are safe and which ones should be avoided.

1. Install from trusted or verified sources

All the major operating systems have an official store from which apps can safely be downloaded. It is usually not a good idea to download apps from forums, unofficial websites or blogs claiming to have paid versions of popular apps. You can never know if they may be bundled with malware or viruses.

2. Read the list of permissions required

Take the time to read through the list and try to understand why an app is asking for a particular permission. The list may look cryptic but it's not that hard to read and understand what each means. A dialer replacement app would obviously need permission to make/receive calls and access to your address book. But a flashlight or wallpaper app which needs to send or receive texts should raise doubts. Some apps might require internet access in order to display ads. In order to remove the ads, you may decide to purchase an add-free version or simply uninstall the app.

3. Research online and read user reviews

If you still aren't comfortable with all the permissions an app requires, look at the number of downloads and read user reviews. If thousands of people have downloaded the app before you without problems, it is less likely to be a rogue application. You can also research the app. There are plenty of blogs dedicated to finding and reviewing new and best apps for any particular need you might have on all the various mobile platforms available today.

So, slow down. Read the permissions before agreeing to them and do the research on anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. :o )

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