Here’s how to ensure your device is safe from possible data breach- The New Indian Express | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  It’s safe to say that no one is potentially safe from cyberattacks. With allegation of the Government of India snooping in on mobiles phones of ministers, journalists and activists using Pegasus spyware, which is developed by an Israeli surveillance technology firm, your data is probably not completely safe. 

According to cybersecurity experts, there are thousands of spyware such as Pegasus that can be used by thieves or even governments to access data on a target’s phone. However, you can still protect yourself against such spying, to at least some extent.

“It is not easy to hack a smartphone these days, but hackers know how to do it. They do it for digging information about us or for money. Companies and governments do it legally with applications, which is more dangerous,” says city cybersecurity expert and ethical hacker, Vidhyuth Kumar. 

“Much like street hackers, every company or the government is sniffing for data, with a legal twist. Private companies sell the data to third parties to make money out of it, and governments do it for elections. For this reason, we must always read the privacy statements very carefully,” he warns.

But do we ever actually read an app’s privacy policy before accept its terms? Apps ask you to allow them to access our vital information such as personal files, contacts, camera, microphone, location, keyboard activity. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend hours trying to read and understand it. Open-source applications such as Polisis can help simply visualise privacy policies without asking for any of your personal data or money.

Now that you know what you share with apps, you can choose which apps to keep and which ones to delete. R Ravinder, Inspector at the Cyber Crime wing of the Cyberabad police says we should keep our app load to the minimum. “Use a few, necessary trusted apps. Always think before you allow them permissions and only allow the company to use the app for the time being, not always. People must be extra careful when they download apps for obtaining loans and calculating EMI”, says Ravinder.

You cannot trust all the apps, but if your mobile is filled with a few trusted apps, you must ensure that the app is updated all the time. Companies update their apps only after they detect some loopholes that hackers can use to penetrate into the device. “Almost every agency is looking for data, be it government or private. We must always ensure that we install essential apps,” says Arun Kumar, a city-based data engineer working with a national political firm.

According to Arun, it is difficult to know if a phone is hacked these days. Earlier, when a phone was hacked by spyware, batteries would drain quickly and the internet consumption would increase. Phones come with powerful batteries and nobody cares much about how much data is consumed. “The more the features in a phone, the more vulnerable the user is. Some of the ad companies are looking for facial responses when they use apps to see what mood they are in using AI and machine-learning tools,” he adds.

Extra  Cautious? 

In case you don’t trust corporate companies and want to be anonymous on the Internet, these tips will prevent you from seeing personalised ads. We bring to you some alternative software that will keep you secure from big companies, governments and hackers

  • Android/IOS Alternative: Use open-source operating systems such as Ubuntu Touch and Plasma Mobile, they are cost-free and Pregasus free.
  • Browsers: Use open-source browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Brave or TOR if you want to be completely anonymous on the Internet. Perhaps, use a VPN for enhanced security.
  • Instant Messaging: Signal is a better alternative than WhatsApp, but there is Telegram, Element and Wire too that offer end-to-end encryption.
  • E-mail: Use free, open-source Protonmail or Outlook.
  • Social media: Apps like ‘Minds’ and Diaspora are free, open-source apps such as Facebook. PixelFed and Bibliogram can offer more or less Instagram experience.

Tips to keep your phone safe 

  • Keep a passcode and never leave your phone unattended
  • Avoid downloading ad blockers and browser extensions
  • Use trusted software after reading the privacy policy
  • Avoid opening forwarded links from unverified sources
  • Keep Bluetooth tuned off when not in use
  • Avoid using public or free WiFi
  • Use trusted security apps such as antivirus for additional protection

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