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Safety & security

Biggest mistakes you’re making with apps on your phone

A stealthy hacker can snatch all of your private information without leaving a trace. Like an investigator, they can root out your last name, address, job and even your Social Security number. Then, they milk you like a cash cow, selling that information to private buyers online.

That’s why cybersecurity tips can make or break your digital life. To better understand the signs of a hack, check out our quick and easy-to-read guide on red flags. Tap or click here for signs your phone or computer is infected with a virus or keylogger.

You even might be making a few critical mistakes that put you in danger every day. Read on to see if you’re guilty of any of these mishaps. We’ll tell you exactly how you can tweak your settings to stay safer than ever before.

1. Enabling “always on” permissions

Now and then, an app will ask you for permission to access parts of your phone. Maybe it needs to pinpoint your location or rifle through your photos. Sometimes, an app will even ask if it can take control of your camera.

Over time, you can lose track of the specific permissions you set for each app. That could put you in danger if any of these apps are ever hacked. Tap or click here to know when your phone’s camera or mic is being used.

Stay on top of your privacy by changing permissions. Instead of enabling “always-on” permissions for every app, change the setting so that you have to give consent each time.

How to manage app permissions on an Android phone

  • Go to Settings.
  • Tap Apps.
  • Select the app you want to adjust.
  • Tap Permissions.

Now, you can choose what you want this app to access (like camera, contacts, microphone and more).

Adjust app permissions on your iPhone

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap Privacy.
  • In the Privacy section, select a category that you want to adjust. For example, Photos, Microphone, Camera and more.
  • For each category you select, you’ll see a list of apps that have requested permission for it. Slide the toggle to the left next to each app that you want to remove access to that category.

Now that you’ve changed your apps’ software side, let’s take a peek inside the apps themselves. Here’s one option you never want to take.

2. Connecting your social media

Sometimes, an app asks if you want to connect certain apps. For example, say you want to make some friends on Bumble BFF. The Bumble app will ask you to connect it to Spotify to show potential friends your favorite songs and artists.

In theory, this sounds like an excellent addition — but we don’t recommend going for it. For one, you’re forking over a good chunk of personal data. Enabling third-party app permissions comes with a whole host of security and privacy risks.

For one, they can potentially share your data with other parties you don’t even know about. They could even copy and store your data on different servers — and what happens if hackers break into those servers? Sharing your data across multiple apps spreads highly sensitive information into more places than ever before.

That opens up a whole new world of risks. That’s why you should arm yourself with knowledge and find out who has your private data. Tap or click here for a free tool that can tell you how many apps have access to your info.

Think about it this way: If Bumble gets hacked, that could put your Spotify account in danger, too. This happened to Buffer, a music streaming app that can post to apps like Twitter or Facebook on your behalf. Hackers broke into Buffer in 2013, spreading spam across users’ connected social media accounts.

Overall, healthy separation is the best policy when it comes to phone apps. Most of the time, it’s just not worth it.

3. Allow access to your contacts

Just like the example above, this probably isn’t even necessary. If you want to stay safe, avoid this. When you let an app access your contacts, you’re giving away private information other people trusted you with.

Say your friend isn’t interested in a social media app you want to try out. They don’t like the company and don’t want anything to do with it. If you connect your contacts to the app, you’re giving away their phone number, email and maybe even home address, all without their consent.

Don’t gamble with other people’s privacy. You’re not the only person at risk when it comes to cybersecurity. That’s why we recommend avoiding handing over more data than is necessary.

SPEAKING OF CONTACTS … How to clean up your iPhone contacts list in 4 easy steps

4. Downloading things you don’t need

Dangerous downloads could obliterate your smartphone. Tap or click here for 10 apps you need to remove from your phone now. You should especially watch out for illegal sites that promise to give you something costly for free.

We get the temptation. Maybe you’re desperate to save a pirated version of that cool but expensive app on your device. Or perhaps you want to keep free songs on your phone instead of buying them on Pandora, Spotify or Buffer.

But don’t take the risk. As Kim always says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” There’s no way someone would let you download a paid service for free out of the kindness of their heart. They’re likely trying to download malware onto your device or start a ransomware scheme.

Speaking of which, never pay a ransom. Tap or click here to avoid a scary strain of Android malware that can completely lock up your phone. But even if you aren’t a pirate, there are all sorts of risks with reckless downloads.

Never download an app that performs a native feature

You might see flashlight apps or QR code scanners in the app store. None of these should make their way onto your home screen. That’s because your phone has both of these features built-in.

Downloading apps you don’t need leads to a bloated phone. That means web pages and apps take much longer to load. Tap or click here for a list of bloatware apps you didn’t even know were slowing down your phone.

5. Not looking at reviews for red flags

Never download an app sight unseen. You want to make sure it has good reviews. If it has less than four or five stars on the app store, scroll down and read what people like you are saying.

This can tip you off to scams that could harm your phone. It’s an easy way to do cybersecurity research. If people are saying an app slowed down their phone, listen carefully.

Reading reviews is like peering into a crystal ball. They give you a pretty clear picture of your future.

Bonus tip: An app on your phone that will actually protect you

We’ve talked about apps you should avoid, as well as permissions to click “no” on. Here’s an app you should always say “yes” to. It’s our sponsor, TotalAV.

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TotalAV’s industry-leading security suite is easy to use and offers the best protection in the business. In fact, it’s received the renowned VB100 award for detecting more than 99% of malware samples for the last three years in a row.

Not only do you get continuous protection from the latest threats, but its AI-driven Web Shield browser extension blocks dangerous websites automatically, and its Junk Cleaner can help you quickly clear out your old files.

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