Unused apps pose a huge security risk says Kaspersky Labs; here's what you could do for safety

According to a report by Kaspersky Labs, your smartphone is vulnerable to threats, if you have a lot of unused apps installed on your phone.


We are addicted to our smartphones, as has been proven time and again. And one of the things that adds to this is the number of apps we have on our smartphones. But how often do we use all the apps on our smart devices? And what the kinds of security threats we are looking at if these apps are left unattended?

According to a report by Kaspersky Labs, your smartphone is vulnerable to threats, if you have a lot of unused apps installed on your phone.

Kaspersky Labs conducted a survey across 17 countries, and it showed that users typically install 12 Android apps every month but delete only 10, in effect adding two apps to their device on a monthly basis. With more apps installed on devices, managing apps is important in preventing digital clutter.

In terms of numbers, around 55 percent of the users refreshed and revised the content of their devices regularly, deleting unwated apps; 28 percent of the users only updated apps when they were forced to; 10 percent of the users didn't do it at all.

Kaspersky Labs also said that of the 66 popular Android apps, around 54 apps launched in the background without needing any active input from the user. These consumed on an average 22MB traffic per day. These apps also have access to sensitive user data such as contacts, messages, data and can even make calls and send SMSes.

Sure you can adjust the app permissions in settings, but honestly how many of us do that on a regular basis?

There have been reports which state how hackers can attack iOS apps while they are transferring data from the phone to the cloud to carry out 'man in the middle' attacks. Now you may not be using the app, but if it is communicating with the cloud in the background, that makes your device vulnerable as well. According to infosec expert Will Strafach, the problem aggravates when you are connected to Wi-Fi. According to Strafach it is difficult for a hacker to intercept data on a cellular data connection. He event sent out a list of apps that were vulnerable.

What could be done?

According to Kaspersky, there are some steps that users can take to ensure that their app data isn't vulnerable to any hack attacks. The most basic thing is to know which apps are there on your device, if you have not used the app in ages, chances are you won't suddenly start using them, so it is best to delete such apps. Cleaning your device of such apps on a timely manner is par for the course.

You should ensure that all your apps are up to date. Just put the updates on Wi-Fi and set a time when you sleep at night maybe, if you do not want to be bothered by app updates when your are working during the daytime.

Ideally, it would have been great if users got a notification from the app store or the developer if any app was not being used regularly. But that isn't an option now. You could install apps which tell you how much time you spend on apps to get an idea which apps are not being used in a set timeframe, and take a call accordingly.

App aggregators are an alternative

If you are the types, who downloads an app and uses it just once, then forgets about it, then maybe you should consider installing an app aggregator. With the way things are going, these things are going to get more mainstream, specially for transaction-based apps.

There are lot of interesting apps around such as Tapzo, CabtoAroundYU on Micromax/YU devices which act as a one-stop shop for your popular app requirements. For instance, Tapzo has partnered with 35 apps across categories, so you only need one app instead of individually downloading those 35 apps. We are already seeing this phenomenon with News apps, wherein you download one app that gets you news from all the individual news organisations. This is another way of getting rid of the clutter.

With storage getting cheaper, one would feel tempted to install a lot of apps. But it is pertinent to ensure that you regularly whet the apps and delete the unwanted apps. It is just common sense to do that, rather than be a victim of a hacking incident due to an old version of an app that was languishing on your phone, and which you never bothered updating.