There are many apps on the BlackBerry App World, and even more on other BlackBerry app stores. But do you know which apps are safe? Deciding whether an app is safe or not is an almost insurmountable task for the regular BlackBerry user. Let’s first look at the threats and after that collect some ideas what you can do to increase your safety.
Problems with mobile apps
When you give permissions to an app on your BlackBerry, you basically tell the BlackBerry OS, that a specific app is allowed to do things that can potentially be exploited by criminals. The key here is trust. If you allow an app to access the internet, what will this app do in the internet? Will it just download the latest updates, as the description of the app suggests, or does it also send data about you to its creator?
Besides the app permissions at install time, some apps ask for personal details. This is another problem, because here you are giving away personal information and the on-device security system cannot interfere. There might be simple questions regarding your age to confirm you are old enough to use a certain app. Maybe you also have to enter your name? A handful of information is enough to help others to assume you identity. If you enter this information and the app also has access to the internet, it can send your personal information. The criminal then can go to the library and tell them that he (you) want to borrow a book. He will say that unfortunately he forget his (your) ID card, but if it is possible to borrow anyways. The personnel might ask a simple question to verify it’s really you. A simple question like for your birth date. And this is the data you entered in the app already and the app already sent it to the bad guy.
It won’t be to bad in the library, but there are other places where a stranger can do much more damage with your identity. A criminal could buy a car in your name and then disappear. Identity theft is a serious problem today.
They are tracking you
Sure there are many Joe Averages in the country, but how many Joe Average, born 1976, September, 16th, living in Kings road 16b, Miami are there in the country? Not much information, but it’s enough to identify a unique person. Having a very common name doesn’t guarantee your safety.
What can you do?
Avoiding the cybercrooks is easy, if you are accepting some basic rules. While the following tips are to some extend not exactly legal, they are widely accepted because the threats of apps and the internet are widely known.
- Give away as little information as possible about yourself
- If you have to enter personal information for no reason (Why does Farmville need my birthday?) then just enter random information. If you feel bad about that you can still enter a birthday that is close to your real birthday.
- If a app asks for to much information, then consider not using that app and make a search on the internet to find out if others had problem with this app.
- If a app’s function is to do something locally on your BlackBerry, but it still asks for internet access, then search for this app on the internet. Try using this app without internet permission and see if it works anyways.
- If a app asks for your email password, do not give this extremely high valuable information away. There have been numerous cases, where an app asked for the email and password, to help connecting to friends. However people realized only seconds later, they could no longer enter their own email box, because the password was changed. Your email password is one of your most precious things, equal to the keys of your own house. Would you give you keys to a company like Facebook?
- If you accidentally gave a way your email password or another password for another service, change your password right now.
- Do not enter your bank accounts password into a random app, except the official app of your bank, which you downloaded from the homepage of your bank and nowhere else.
Extra Tip when signing up for a service on the Internet:
Some services give you the opportunity to enter a security question to recover you account should you forget the password. Do not make use of this feature. Your first teacher? The name of your first pet? If you really have valuable information in your Email inbox, bad guys will accept to go the extra mile and amek friends with you first. Even if it takes months. But thanks to Facebook this isn’t neccesary anymore, because everyone shares everything today. And this is exactly the way Sara Palin lost control over her Email Inbox. If you are forced to use this feature to sign up, write a long string of characters, numbers and symbols as an answer.
A secured system is only as safe as its weakest link. Do not trust anyone on the internet. Do not trust randomly downloaded apps. A BES encrypted environment is only safe as long as you are not voluntarily sending out information. And sometimes just sending out fake information about yourself can help you sleep better.