.If your child has a smartphone, the odds are pretty good that they have apps installed on them. Of course, they do! That is part of the charm of smartphones. Apps, in and of themselves, are not bad. Apps need to get through security and policy parameters set forth by Android and Apple to even make it into their app store. But, here’s the thing, some apps have hidden dangers. The app developers may have never intended the dangers, but unfortunately, they exist, and as a parent/guardian, you really need to know about them. Let’s check out five pretty popular apps and their potential dangers.
Photo Roulette is a social party app. In other words, it’s a game. App users invite up to 49 friends to play a game. When a player joins the game, they grant access to their phone’s photo albums. When the game begins, Photo Roulette randomly selects a photo from one of the player’s phones and displays it to everyone. Players then guess the photo “owner,” and the player with the most correct guesses after 15 rounds wins.
On the surface, this sounds harmless and like a pretty fun game. But we need to dig below the surface a bit. As noted, the app will randomly select a photo, which means all photos on your phone are fair game, even those that someone texted to the phone user. This is where the potential danger comes into play. Kids may have photos on their phone that they shouldn’t because of the content. It may be embarrassing because it may show friends in photos that were never meant to be shared, or it could be confidential photos of personal information (driver’s license, passwords, etc.). All of these photos are fair game, and once shared, it’s too late to reign back in.
Now, the app has security practices in place, such as confirming that users must be 16 or older, and users are warned to make sure their photo library doesn’t contain sensitive or private information. In addition, settings can ensure that the photos do not remain on other players’ devices. However, player information (not photos) may be shared with third-party sources, which means your child may be subject to unwanted spam and ads.
This is a proceed with extreme caution type of app. Make sure your child reviews all photos on their phone frequently before even considering playing this game. And maybe even have them ask themselves, would you show this picture to your Grandma or a complete stranger?
The WhatsApp app isn’t new. However, it has encountered problems recently, which is putting it in the spotlight. WhatsApp was subject to “app killing” messages late last year. An “app killing” message causes the app to crash, takes users offline and in many situations, requires an uninstall of the app in order to use it again.
These messages are sent through WhatsApp through vulnerabilities in the App. Vulnerabilities have enabled users to be added to groups without their consent. And, once in the group, they receive a message that includes metadata which can be manipulated to break the app. All data (messages, photos, etc.) within the app could be lost. And in the end, the app needs to be uninstalled and reinstalled.
In addition to potentially sending metadata that can break the app, hackers can also leverage the vulnerabilities to send fake news to the group that the user was added to. Fake news can cover a variety of different topics, some of which can be dangerous to kids that believe the information.
The unfortunate issue here is that WhatsApp seems to be a target and has had a few issues over the past few months, which means you, and your child needs to stay vigilant. First, make sure your app is up to date because WhatsApp has released patches to help with these issues. And second, have your child review the groups that they are in, and periodically check the membership lists. If there are users they do not know, consider that a red flag. And, remove themselves from groups that may have popped up on them – meaning, they did not join.
TikTok is another app that has a fun appeal to it. Users are able to post 15-second videos with music overlays. Think lip-synching, or your puppy chasing its tail. There’s the obvious cautionary tale on only sharing videos that do not show anything private or sensitive, but there are other scenarios at play here.
This app has caught the attention of the US government, and when that happens, it’s a sign for parents to take note. In fact, US military personnel cannot have the app installed on military issued devices. This is primarily because the apps parent-company is ByteDance, a Chinese company. And, large corporations in China that are successful, seem to have ties back to the Chinese government. This is one of the concerns of the US government, along with the potential that user data is being sent back to the Chinese government.
Even if you think that could be far-fetched, there are other concerns with TikTok. The app has had serious vulnerability issues in 2019. One of the vulnerabilities, which has been patched, would have allowed hackers to manipulate and potentially reveal the personal data of its users. The vulnerability could have also created the opportunity for hackers to send users messages that look like they are from TikTok that carried a malicious link. And, when the link was clicked on, access to videos and personal information was granted. The bottom line here is that the app seems to be an easy one to hack, which means anything stored on the app could be made public or culled for future use.
Hide it Pro
Two different apps, that carry the same overall premise. They make certain things like photos and videos hidden unless you know where to look and have the password. And, if something is hidden, there is usually a reason why.
In addition to hiding photos and videos, Hide It Pro can also hide apps, messages, and calls. And, the app has its own disguise. It looks like an “Audio Manager”. The idea behind the app is that the phone owner can share their phone without worrying about privacy. However, some children are using it to hide things that they shouldn’t have in the first place.
Calculator+ is considered a vault-app that also hides files that the user would like to keep secret. Photos and videos can be taken from the app, or files can be transferred to the app. The disguise, as you may have guessed, is that the app looks like another calculator app. And, it even functions as a calculator.
In both of these scenarios, a concern should come up as to what your child needs to keep hidden. If there are photos or videos they want to hide from their parent/guardian, there might be a reason to ask why.
These apps aren’t going away, and honestly, there is probably a new app being created right now that could cause new concerns in the next few months. Awareness of the apps that your children are using has become a common need. It is also a need to be able to access your child’s phone and have conversations with them about what’s on their phone. These conversations should include their photos, videos and the apps that they are using. Often times, children are not thinking about the potential dangers of apps. The unfortunate part is that hackers and bad people do. As parents, it is our job to protect and educate them on the potential dangers. And at Intivix, it’s our job to educate our readers on potential technology dangers, including the dangers that could impact kids.