Your iPhone Apps Can Look at Your Contacts

Think that the threat of spyware on your iPhone is minuscule? Think again. A recent study by Lookout—a security firm—found that 14% of free iOS-compatible software on Apple’s iTunes store is capable of looking at your contact information. Terrifying isn’t it?

While the UNIX core that makes up the Apple’s iOS definitely has a number of security advantages, little protection can be offered when we voluntarily install software and give it access rights to our personal data. A lot of hubbub has emerged with regards to Apple and other smartphone manufacturers using our location data for targeted advertising, but little attention has been paid to what else of ours can be used by less than honest app developers. It looks like they have been hard at work earning our unwarranted trust and possibly have been exploiting it.

In comparison, only 8% of apps for Google’s Android OS could access a user’s contacts list. While 8% is certainly less than 14%, both numbers are far too high to cause anyone comfort. What makes this worse is that Apple does not have a mechanism in place to let the user decide if they want to grant access to their contacts list to 3rd party software. If you download it and use it, then you are vulnerable.

The way the study was performed was by analyzing the code of more than 300,000 free applications for both platforms. While certainly not all of these apps are malicious in nature and some certainly have legitimate reasons to use information from your contacts—like to help you send an email invite to a friend for something—this dose pose serious questions about the safety of smartphones. After all, we store nearly all of our personal information on them. That’s the whole point of a personal electronic device isn’t it?

Earlier, Lookout discovered an Android OS wallpaper app that had the ability to capture a user’s SIM card number, subscriber identification information and passwords to access voicemail. What did it do with the information? It sent it off to a website owned by someone in China. Stealing personal information is a large, international business operation.

This news make you a little more apprehensive to install applications without first finding out if you trust their publisher? You angry that Apple doesn’t have mechanisms to let the user decide what information apps can access? Speak out. If we don’t, smartphone operating system developers will not take the time to fix these problems until they become too big to handle.

Tags: , ,