Supervisor Johnson Warns of Spying through Android Based Flashlight Apps

Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to warn the public of a new cyber threat affecting mobile devices.  According to a threat assessment report done by SnoopWall, an international counter surveillance security software company, the top 10 free flashlight apps in Android’s Google Play store contain malware that allow hackers to spy and gather personal information.  “Nearly half a billion installations of these apps have occurred causing major concern,” Supervisor Johnson, 1st Vice Chairman of the National Association of Counties Cyber Security Task Force Team, stated.  “While these apps may be a great convenience for users who need to find their house keys in the dark, they are posing a great security threat to every user who installs them,” Johnson continued.

According to the report, users who install these apps are unknowingly giving hacker’s permission to locate them through GPS, read their personal information stored on the device, view personal photos and videos and even gain access to their financial information.  “Users who have installed the flashlight app and do mobile banking through their device are at a greater risk for exposure because of the vulnerability found in these apps,” Johnson said.  According to SnoopWall CEO, Gary Miliefsky, the average size of a flashlight app should be no more than 72 kilobytes.  The size of these flashlight apps are ranging anywhere from 1.2 to 5 megabytes.  “These hackers are embedding more code than necessary into these popular apps which allows them to collect personal data and spy on the cell phone user,” Johnson said.

While the report done by SnoopWall focused on the top 10 Android apps, it did mention that Windows and Apple iOS users should still remain cautious when downloading third party apps.

The following are ways users can increase their privacy and security to avoid some of these vulnerabilities on their mobile device:

  • Disable your GPS at all times except in an emergency or when needed for navigation purposes;
  • Disable the NFC (Near Field Communications) or on Apple devices, iBeacon, permanently (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT6048);
  • Disable Bluetooth at all times except when needed to make hands-free calls
  • Verify apps behavior and privacy risk BEFORE installing – do some research and ask the questions “why does this app need GPS, MICROPHONE, WEBCAM, CONTACTS, etc.?” – most apps don’t need these ports unless they want to invade your privacy. Find an alternative before installing risky apps.

To read the full report done by SnoopWall, please visit: http://www.snoopwall.com/threat-reports-10-01-2014/

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