Global security company reveals vulnerabilities of dead apps in app store

News Highlights:
·      2 in 5 people in Singapore do not know how to check if their connected devices have been compromised by cybersecurity threats
·      McAfee Mobile Threat Report reveals more than 4,000 potentially malicious apps removed from Google Play
·      500,000+ devices still have these apps installed and are active, putting users’ security at risk

Singapore — March 9, 2017 – Connected cars, the future of smart homes and, of course, the newest handsets are top of the agenda for consumers. New research from Intel Security shows the ways consumers are being tempted by the efficiency and entertainment of such connected devices, with survey data revealing the average person in Singapore now spends between 41 percent to 50 percent of their time at home online.

Despite leading increasingly connected lifestyles, almost 44 percent of people surveyed in Singapore have no idea how to check if their connected devices have ever been compromised, and almost 43 percent said they do not check for breaches on a regular basis. People not only need to understand the security risks associated with laptops and tablets, but also with connected devices such as smart TVs, speakers and connected cars, and manufacturers must take responsibility for ensuring security is built in to the foundations of new products.

“In an age where our televisions, refrigerators or even washing machines are connected to the internet, we just need to be careful more than ever”, says David Freer, Vice President, Consumer APAC at Intel Security. “These devices may not necessarily have security built into them and, therefore consumers have to take it upon themselves to monitor their devices to prevent security breaches.”

Dead apps can be deadly

It’s not just apps live in app stores that represent a risk. Telemetry data collected by McAfee Labs shows that more than 500,000 devices still have dead apps installed and are actively used. With more than 2 million apps in each of the major app stores, malicious apps find ways through the store curators’ initial quality-control process.

In the past year, more than 4,000 apps were removed from Google Play, but users and the organisations they work for who may have already acquired the apps remain exposed to any vulnerabilities, privacy risks, or malware contained in these dead apps.

One recent example is a password stealer, distributed on Google Play as a variety of utilities and tools to acquire Instagram followers or analyse usage. The malware leads the user to a phishing website with a simple design that makes it difficult to distinguish between the legitimate and the fake, easily capturing users’ credentials.

“Consumers run the risk of losing personal data such as phone contacts to such dead apps, so they really need to scrutinize the apps they have downloaded.  A highly recommended practice is to research the developer and also read fellow consumer reviews about the app before installing it onto their personal devices,” says David Freer. “It is worth investing in security tools that can identify dead apps and provide some context as to why they were taken down from the app store at the same time.”

Intel Security’s top tips for protecting your personal data:

·      Lock down your devices. Our devices are like an extension of our homes. It’s imperative that they are locked down with a strong PIN code, as well as complex and unique passwords to prevent unauthorized access. Use a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution, like True Key by Intel Security that will combine your strong passwords with an extra layer of security – like your fingerprint or facial recognition.
·      Keep your devices updated. Be sure to update your devices when new versions of the operating system or applications become available. Updates often include critical security fixes designed to patch and protect from attacks. 
·      Take control of your home network. Setting up a guest Wi-Fi network allows visitors to access the internet but keeps your home network private and isolated from their devices. You can also separate your IoT devices (smart home devices, wearables, etc.) from traditional connected devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) where more secure information is stored, so if an IoT devices is compromised, the breach will be limited to devices connected to the guest network. Solutions, such as McAfee Secure Home Platform, help you easily manage and protect devices connected to both networks, and can ensure that guest devices connected to your network don’t open you up to an attack.

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