The permissions iOS apps request from users can turn the devices into spy tools and provide a toehold into the enterprise network, according to new research.
In many ways, the era of the smartphone is defined by apps, which do everything from sending messages to tracking our exercise. New research shows how Apple iOS apps come with substantial costs to privacy and security via the data-gathering permissions users grant them.
The new research, conducted by Wandera, reviewed permissions requested by 30,000 iOS apps most commonly seen on their network of corporate devices, most of which were free apps. Wandera found there are permissions to three sources of data requested by more than half the apps: Location when the app is in use (51%); camera (55%); and the user’s photo library (62%).
Not suprisingly, social networking apps request permission for the most data, with an average of 4.96 data sources. The second “grabbiest” category though, is weather apps, asking for access to 4.73 data sources.
Why do the apps need so much user data? “[App publishers are] trying to build profiles on individual users that could yield more value to them as a development team or as a firm that made an investment in that application,” says Wandera vice president Michael Covington.
Some 95% of the apps studied by Wandera were free apps. “There’s not a ton of money in the applications themselves,” Covington says. And it’s notable that, according to the research, paid apps tend to request no device permissions far more often (more than 25% of the time) than free apps (15%).
While users explicitly grant permission for the apps to gather this data, Covington says that there can be a dramatic difference between the access required to initially set up the app and the access required for the ongoing functioning of the app.
“Many of these apps …
Author: Curtis Franklin Jr. Senior Editor at Dark Reading