FBI warns apps might be stealing your information


FILE – In this Sept. 16, 2016 file photo, a customer compares her iPhone 6, left, with an iPhone 7 at an Apple Store in Chicago. IPhone owners could get $25 from Apple after the company agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims over intentionally slowing down older phones to preserve older batteries. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Scammers trying to obtain your information? There’s an app for that.

The FBI warns that cyber criminals are using apps to glean personal information from people, and want you to be aware.

Tomas Armendariz, Computer Scientist for the FBI’s Cyber Squad in El Paso, says most people don’t read the terms and conditions of apps downloaded to their devices, which leaves users vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Hackers can target different types of apps and can make them appear to be legitimate and useful.

“It can actually be a full-functioning app,” says Armendariz. “For instance, you can download a specific calculator or flashlight app — even a gaming app. These apps will serve their purpose, but behind the scenes is working to access personal information on your phone, grabbing photos, contact, and banking information.”

The apps target a variety of users, and hackers cast a wide net in the hope of accessing information of people who are most susceptible — like distracted mobile device users looking to make their lives more functional with an app that appear to be helpful.

Once corrupted apps are downloaded, hackers can turn on hidden features to harvest sensitive credential information to gain access to people’s banking accounts.

The FBI says parents should be cognizant of the apps their children use.

“A lot of times as parents you give your phone to your children so they can play or download a game.”

Armendariz says it’s important to pay close attention to the terms and conditions disclaimer because that is where information regarding what the app is designed (and will attempt) to do, and will ask permission to access certain permissions on your phone. Such as:

  • Location services for meal delivery apps.
  • Access to a person’s photos for a social media app.
  • Access to contacts to connect with on professional networking apps.

“If you don’t pay attention to what you’re installing or what the terms and conditions are saying, at that point you’re giving the app permission to access your sensitive data,” says Armendariz.

People can protect themselves by going through the applications that are on their devices and verify the terms and conditions.  A red flag is if an app asks to run on background when not in use.

Armendariz says it can be indicative of a malicious app or one that is too new and potentially contain bugs.

Another red flag is if an app is using a large amount of data when not in use, which will give cyber criminals full access to people’s online lives

“If you’re using your phone to log into social media, into your email, to banking information, to work, then attackers can view all that activity on your phone.”

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