Apps and software help us connect with the world in new ways, allowing us to connect with friends, access entertainment, work efficiently, and more. They can also be easy ways for criminals to gain access to your computer, mobile device, and your sensitive information.
- Install updates when prompted
- Only allow apps or software installations from official sources
- Never download software from illegal file sharing sources
- Check mobile app privileges before buying and installing an app
Keep Software Up to Date
Software updates often bring new features but also provide important security patches against known vulnerabilitites. OIT-managed Windows computers will receive Microsoft security updates automatically, but you must install updates manually for other applications. You can also turn on automatic updates for Windows and Macintosh computers.
Install from Official Sources
Computers and mobile devices now have settings that let you choose what types of sources are allowed to install apps and software. The safest choice is to only allow installations from official sources, which means the application developer has gone through a registration process to verify themselves and “sign” their application as the official version.
You should note that just because an app comes from an official source doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t malicious. Always research beforehand to verify the validity of an application before you install it.
Avoid Downloads From Illegal Sources
It may be tempting to try to find illegal versions of your favorite software, music, movies, and more, but putting malicious files on illegal peer-to-peer sharing sites is a quick way for hackers to infect computers with malware. Not only are you breaking the law, but you are risking your personal information and identity as well. Stealing content can cost you more in the than run than if you had just purchased the content to begin with.
Checking Mobile App Privileges
Offering free apps is a good way to criminals to get access to your device, but you can often catch malicious apps before it’s too late.
Mobile app stores, like Google Play, App Store for iOS, and the Amazon App Store, list the access an app needs to work on your device before you can download an app. Take the time to consider the function of the app when reviewing the app's request for privileges. Is the app asking for more access than it makes sense to have? Sometimes there are good reasons for giving an app access, but sometimes that reason is just to collect information about you.
For example, if you’re downloading an app that turns on your camera’s LED flash to use as a flashlight, it would make sense for that app to need to access your camera. But, it shouldn’t need access to your contact list, Internet access, GPS location, browsing history, etc. The app may be using this access to send information about you to marketing companies, collect sensitive information about you to send to hackers, or infect your device with malware. Instead, consider finding an app that only needs access to the camera to turn on the LED light and nothing else.