Updated: Sunday, 04 November 2012 08:08 | By Relaxnews

The cheaper the app, the greater the security risk

Free Android apps are 401 percent more likely to track users' location and 314 percent more likely to access a phone's address book than paid-for apps are among the findings of a recent report.

The cheaper the app, the greater the security risk

The cheaper the app, the greater the security risk

The 18-month analysis by Juniper Networks studied 1.7 million apps available on the Google Play market between March 2011 and September 2012 and discovered that a significant number of applications were capable of compromising and exposing sensitive data and sought permission from users for access or functionality that didn't appear necessary for the app's function. Crucially, such behavior was more prevalent in free apps than in paid-for apps.

Apps on the prowl

Only 6.01 percent of paid apps have permission to track user location, compared with 24.14 percent of free apps. Free apps were also more likely to have access to a user's address book (6.72% vs 2.14%), to have permission to send silent text messages (2.64% vs 1.45% for paid apps), make clandestine phone calls (6.39% vs 1.88%) and access the camera (5.53% compared with 2.11%).

The problem for users is that it is commonly assumed free apps need certain permissions and access to collect advertising data, hence being free to download. Ads are the trade-off for using something free of charge. However, Juniper's research revealed that while 24.14 percent of the 683,238 free apps examined track location, only 9.02 percent of free apps were linked to top five ad networks.

Better information on permissionsneeded

Perhaps most concerning of all is that Juniper discovered that in some categories, particularly cards & casino and racing games, apps seemed to be overstepping the needs of the applications when accessing certain permissions.
Juniper concludes that the industry needs to make information regarding permission and access clearer and easier to understand -- for instance, rather than just listing the types of access an app has, giving examples as to why they are needed. However, it also warns app users not to be naïve and to remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch and to be more aware when choosing and installing such apps on their mobile devices.


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