Published: September 16, 2021 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.
Stunning revelations about Android app security were released by Atlas VPN. They find 63% of free and paid mobile Android apps studied have a flurry of security flaws – an average of 39 per app. If that’s not enough to grab your attention, there are two categories of apps found most riddled with security flaws. Gaming and financial apps top the chart, with free gaming apps at 96% flawed, and banking apps at 88% flawed.
The data from Atlas VPN is based on a report by CyRC that analyzed mobile apps available in the Google Play store in the first-quarter of 2021, with the 18 most popular app categories used during the coronavirus pandemic. The CyRC report involved 3,335 free and paid apps, with 98% containing open-source software components. Open-source elements are used by app developers in the app building process and can present security risks if the flaws aren’t fixed and are left behind in the app.
A Closer Look
With Android mobile devices leading the way, Statista finds these smartphones have an 87% share of the global market, with 3.04 million apps available in Google Play. Both statistics were gathered from 2009 to 2020.
Atlas VPN breaks down the individual app categories and the percent of security flaws found within them. To no one’s surprise, free gaming apps top the list at Google Play, with 96% having security flaws. Banking apps have an 88% flaw rate, with payment apps at 80%. Education apps were heavily relied upon during coronavirus, with 57% having security flaws. Lifestyle apps are among the lowest flawed, with free dating sites at 44% and health and fitness the lowest of all categories at 36% flawed.
Some Flaws Old, Some Flaws New…What Can You Do?
One of the most head-scratching findings is that 73% of the app security flaws were disclosed over two years ago but were still present in the apps studied by CyRC two years later. However, don’t give up or give in yet. There are basic security measures you can take to limit exposure to flawed apps and boost the overall security of your smartphone.
Do your homework before downloading any app. Check user ratings and reviews as an overall guide to download the app or not. Review negative comments in particular as they can be helpful avoiding any missteps others have made.
Review permissions and data requests. Pop-up window requests can be fast and furious during download, so know ahead of time what’s expected. You may find them too intrusive and/or not necessary, allowing you to find another app with fewer expectations. If the app doesn’t need access to your microphone, don’t allow it.
Don’t sideload apps, which are commonly found on third-party websites. Third-party apps are a hacker favorite for installing malware and other complications since the websites hosting them don’t necessarily scan apps for security and other issues before making them available to the public.
Atlas VPNs says of the findings “given that the Google Play store applications have been downloaded millions of times, it is safe to say they pose significant security risks to Android users.”
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