How to Protect Yourself from ‘Risky’ Mobile Apps

Free apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores are overwhelmingly riskier to your privacy and security than paid apps, according to new research. Which suggests the old adage is still true: When you don’t pay for a product, chances are you are the product.

It probably wouldn’t surprise CIOs, but I suspect many consumers download free apps without a second thought. In Appthority’s latest “App Reputation Report”, there’s good reason to exercise caution. Here are some notable findings from the report:

  • Of the top 200 free iOS and Android apps, 95 percent “exhibited at least one risky behavior.” Risky behaviors, as defined by Appthority, include location tracking; accessing the user’s address book; use of SSO, or single sign-on (such as using your Facebook credentials to log into a non-Facebook app); UDID, or the practice of identifying the user; in-app purchasing; and sharing information with ad networks and analytics companies.
  • By comparison, 80 percent of the top 200 paid iOS and Android apps exhibited one or more risky behaviors. While that’s better than the free apps, 80 percent is still a high percentage.
  • Among free apps, location tracking was the most prevalent risky behavior, with 70 percent of free apps tracking the user’s whereabouts. Only 44 percent of paid apps used location tracking.
  • Free apps are more likely than paid apps to use single sign-on, share data with ad networks and analytics, and perform other potentially risky behaviors.
  • In general, iOS apps “exhibited a greater percentage of risky behaviors” than did Android apps. Statistically, 91 percent of iOS apps showed at least one risky behavior compared to 83 percent of Android apps.
  • However, Android apps access user identity (71 percent of the top 200) more than iOS apps. Even though Apple prohibits iOS developers from accessing UDIDs, 26 percent of the top iOS apps manage to do it anyhow. That’s an increase of 20 percentage points from Appthority’s summer 2013 report.

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7 mobile tools to help you survive tornado season

130411155143 red cross tornado app story top - 7 mobile tools to help you survive tornado season


Getting the latest warnings when tornadoes are headed your way and knowing what to do before, during and after one hits are all key to staying safe. A handful of apps can help you stay on top of impending dangerous weather. Keep in mind that you’ll want to save power on your smartphone in case the electricity goes out, so use it sparingly.

Here are some digital tools to help you through a storm safely.

NOAA Weather Radio

Getting advanced warning of impeding tornadoes is key. If the electricity goes out and you can’t watch weather updates on TV, you can switch to a battery-powered radio or fire up the NOAA Weather Radio app ($3.99). This app streams more than 200 NOAA broadcasts and adds in additional information including radar, push notifications, emergency warnings for your state and detailed weather reports.

NOAA warns against depending entirely on the Internet to receive warnings and recommends having a radio that can receive the Weather Radio band (between 162.400 MHz to 162.550 MHz) to ensure you always have the latest information. Android users can download a a similar NOAA Radio app ($0.99).

Tornado by American Red Cross

Just as important as knowing when a tornado is coming is knowing what to do to keep your family safe. The free Tornado app from the American Red Cross is a thorough app that includes advice on what to do to prepare for and recover from a tornado. In addition to clear step-by-step instructions, there is a quiz on preparedness, live tornado warnings with a map, tools like an alarm and a flashlight and historical information on tornadoes in your area.

After the storm has passed, you’ll know how to handle flooding, electrical outages and find Red Cross shelters. This app also uses data from NOAA. Available for Android and iOS devices.

TornadoSpy+: Tornado Maps, Warnings and Alerts

For a more proactive, crowdsourced approach, try the TornadoSpy+ iPhone and iPad app ($2.99). In addition to getting official weather reports from professionals, this app lets you report and upload photos of any tornado or hail activity you spot yourself. You can see reports from other people in your area, track storms on a map, rate other spotters, and receive real-time alerts.

Local weather apps

In states where severe weather is common, many local news channels have dedicated weather apps that show live radar, constant updates, local maps and more. For example, people in Cincinnati, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana can download the storm tracker app for the local Fox19 news station. Look up your local stations to find the best option in your area for either Android or iOS.

First Aid by American Red Cross

If something does happen to you or your family, this free app will walk you through administering proper first aid. There are easy-to-follow instructions for treating bleeding, burns, heart attacks and other injuries. You can use the numbered instructions or watch videos to learn basic first aid.

While a useful app for any situation, it also includes safety tips specifically for bad weather and natural disasters, including tornadoes. It’s all downloaded with the app so you don’t have to have an Internet connection to use it. Its 911 integration allows you to make emergency phone calls directly from the app. Available forAndroid and iOS.

Tornado Chasers

Know how to read the signs that come with dangerous weather. TheTornado Chasers app ($.99) is a crash course on how tornadoes work. It includes diagrams of the inside of a twister and a visual guide to all the types of clouds you might spot in the sky.

This iPad app also includes maps of national weather warnings for the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, and you can drill down to find the latest information for your specific area. There are detailed photos and videos showing the signs of tornadoes along with written descriptions.


A one stop app for all alerts, Nixle pushes the latest advisories from more than 5,000 public safety agencies, such as your local fire department. Messages are given different priority levels and mapped out. Alerts within a certain proximity to your home, or any other locations you choose, will be pushed through. The service can also be used through a free iPhone app, online, via text or by e-mail.

7 mobile tools to help you survive tornado season [via]