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FYI: Finding Out What Data Apps Really Collect

For example, a navigation app requires your positioning information to build a convenient route for the user

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Data, Apps, Privacy
Sometimes, they really need such data to operate. Pixabay

With instances of data leakage becoming more and more common, privacy has become the chief casualty. But for those who want to find out if an app is stealthily collecting their data, there are ways to find out, according to researchers.

As cybersecurity firm Kaspersky explained in a blog, most apps collect some information about the user. Sometimes, they really need such data to operate. For example, a navigation app requires your positioning information to build a convenient route for the user.

Developers often use information about users to monetise or improve their service – with prior consent. For example, they may collect anonymous statistics to find bottlenecks in their app and understand along what avenue it needs to be developed.

But some developers may abuse users trust by stealthily collecting information unrelated to their app’s functionality and by selling your data to third parties.

Data, Apps, Privacy
As cybersecurity firm Kaspersky explained in a blog, most apps collect some information about the user. Pixabay

Fortunately, a user can use a couple of services to bring such apps into the open.

The AppCensus service helps users to find out what personal data apps collect and where they send it. It relies on the dynamic analysis method. The app is installed on a real mobile device, granted all the required permissions, and actively used for a certain period of time. All the while, the service keeps an eye on the app to see what data it sends, and to whom, and whether the data is encrypted.

Exodus Privacy is another service that may help you know what data an app collects about you. Unlike AppCensus, Exodus Privacy studies apps themselves, not their behaviour. The service analyses the permissions an app requests and it looks for built-in trackers – third-party modules made to collect information about users and their actions.

Developers often equip their apps with trackers provided by advertising networks, which are made to learn as much as possible about you for the purpose of delivering personalised ads. At present, Exodus Privacy recognises more than 200 types of such trackers.

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Both services are easy to use. A simple search on the app’s name will yield thorough information about what data it collects and where the data goes.

Unlike AppCensus, Exodus allows users not only to pick apps from a list, but also, using the New analysis tab, to add apps from Google Play for analysis.

So prior to using unfamiliar apps, you can scan them using AppCensus and Exodus Privacy. If the results do not meet your expectations, you can look for another app. (IANS)

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There Are No Organized Crime Mafias in Cybercrime, Says Study

The research also debunked common misconceptions that sophisticated organized criminal networks - such as the Russian mafia - are the ones creating cybercrime

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Cybercrime
Cybercrime groups function and work together to cause an estimated $445-600 billion of harm globally per year. Pixabay

There is no ‘Tony Soprano mob boss type’ who is ordering cybercrime against financial institutions globally, say researchers, adding that there are no such thing as organized crime mafias to date.

Cybercrime groups function and work together to cause an estimated $445-600 billion of harm globally per year.

“Certainly, there are different nation states and groups engaging in cybercrime, but the ones causing the most damage are loose groups of individuals who come together to do one thing, do it really well – for a period of time – then disappear,” explained Thomas Holt, professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.

Holt said that organized cybercrime networks are made up of hackers coming together because of functional skills that allow them to collaborate to commit the specific crime.

“So, if someone has specific expertise in password encryption and another can code in a specific programming language, they work together because they can be more effective – and cause greater disruption – together than alone,” said Holt, the co-author of the study.

Holt and lead author ER Leukfeldt, researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, reviewed 18 cases from which individuals were prosecuted for cases related to phishing. “We found that these cybercriminals work in organisations, but those organisations differ depending on the offense,” Holt said.

“They may have relationships with each other, but they’re not multi-year, multi-generation, sophisticated groups that you associate with other organised crime networks,” he noted in the journal International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.

cybercrime
There is no ‘Tony Soprano mob boss type’ who is ordering cybercrime against financial institutions globally, say researchers, adding that there are no such thing as organized crime mafias to date. Pixabay

As things move to the Dark Web and use cryptocurrencies and other avenues for payment, hacker behaviours change and become harder to fully identify, it’s going to become harder to understand some of these relational networks.

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The research also debunked common misconceptions that sophisticated organized criminal networks – such as the Russian mafia – are the ones creating cybercrime. “We hope to see better relationships between law enforcement and academia, better information sharing, and sourcing so we can better understand actor behaviours,” Holt observed. (IANS)