If you have a smartphone, have you automatically allowed its location services to be on, allowing apps to track your location when they don’t need that information to provide you a service?
Check in your smartphone’s settings and take a look under location or location services.
Do you have apps on your smartphone that make liberal use of your phone’s contact details and SMS message records, copying them back to their own servers to spam your friends with a message that looks like it’s coming form you?
While it’s easier for non-rooted Android phones running their original or legitimately updated Android OS version to be targeted by apps installed from stores that aren’t the official Google Play store, as it is possible to install apps from other app stores, both Google and Apple have just removed an app called “Find and Call” from Google Play and the App Store respectively.
Mr Maslennikov further explains to eWeek that the app asked you to enter in your email address and mobile phone number to find other people in a vague sounding “phone book”, whereupon the app uploads your phone book data to a server the app maker controls or has access to!
He even notes that the app could send your GPS co-ordinates, but says this isn’t a surprise because regular apps have been able to do that for some time already.
Finally, your friends will get a message with your number in the header so it looks legit.
While Google has had to clean out its store a few times already, and Apple has certainly banned apps it decided it didn’t like, if not for other violations, Apple blog “The Loop” received confirmation from Apple that this app was definitely making “unauthorised use” of Address Book data.
The Loop quoted an Apple representative stating: “Apple told “The Find & Call app has been removed from the App Store due to its unauthorized use of users’ Address Book data, a violation of App Store guidelines”.
Even though Apple is supposed to be checking apps and no doubt does so using various processes and procedures, it’s clear that all manner of things have slipped through Apple’s fingers before being needed to be removed later, with some calling this Apple’s “first” malware app removal.
Neither Apple nor Google is known to be using their “kill switches” to automatically remove this app from user smartphones, so if you’ve got it, please delete it immediately.
Think that's all? What about several fake Swype apps purporting to bring the Swype keyboard to iOS, but as The Australian newspaper's Chris Griffith unveiled yesterday (and months before as well) are scams, with Griffiths quoting a customer review saying that "this app randomly hijacks your browser and opens other websites on your iPhone unsolicited".
It also goes to show that even those who are supposed to be checking and looking out for you can’t always be trusted to do so on every single occasion.
While the Clueful app exists for iOS users to figure out what you might have thought was private information being used by iOS apps, and the Google Play store spells out with finality what apps have decided they are going to do with your phone’s information and services, even if you don’t really understand what all the settings mean and mean for your data, Android users also need anti-malware protection.
While no such apps exist on iOS as Apple won’t allow them nor the deeper OS access these apps would want, Android users have access to often free versions of anti-malware and anti-virus software from all the well known security companies, including Norton, Kaspersky, BitDefender, AVG and a stack of others, with these programs scanning apps for malware or adware components or anything else they want to warn you about.
Each program has a fully paid version that often adds backup capabilities, remote wipe and GPS mapping discovery if lost along with whatever extra security features can be piled in to get you to upgrade.
Android users should definitely have at least a free version of one of the well known security names, rather than from some brand you’ve never heard of, especially if your Android is set to install apps from “untrusted” (i.e. non-Google Play sources).
In addition, do you make regular backups of your phone’s data, contacts, calendar and other information, whether by online syncing like iCloud on iOS, or various backup services in addition to Google’s own data sync, to a standalone computer, or both?
While this should be automatic for Android users due to needing a Gmail account to access Android apps, iPhone users who aren’t syncing to a computer or using iCloud can find they lose all their contact, calendar, notes and other data if their phone is lost – and the same goes for users of other smartphones that can sync to a computer.
On the same note, have you exported photos, voice notes, videos and data from other apps, whether by email, iTunes sync, iTunes file transfer, iCloud backup to a PC or Mac, or copied from Android to your computer or to something like Picasa Web Services for cloud syncing?
Have you set your phone’s “find me” feature on, for your benefit rather than that of app makers, should you wish to enable tracking for that purpose in the event you lose your phone?
If you’re an Android user, did you agree without realising it when first turning on your Android phone that Google could store all your passwords on its servers, even your home personal Wi-Fi password?
Are you using a complex, long and different passwords for Dropbox, Evernote, webmail, Facebook and other online services so you aren’t easy for hackers, friends or anyone to try and target?
If you’re a Mac user, do you have a hard disk plugged in so Time Machine is backing up automatically, while also using a Time Capsule or equivalent, with either another offline or online backup, or both?
If you’re a Windows user, do you have a hard disk plugged in and set up with Windows Backup and Restore to do a file backup and a system image backup, or other software such as Acronis or the backup as part of an Internet Security suite offering offline and online backup services, even if you have to pay for additional storage space?
Is your computer OS, software programs, drivers, smartphone OS, apps, modem firmware, router firmware, access point firmware (or wireless broadband modem router firmware), your printer firmware and more up to date with the latest versions?
Have you defragged your hard drive, whether using built in software, or software such as Drive Genius for Macs or Diskeeper for Windows, both paid apps, so your computer runs faster and better?
Whatever your computing platform, be it Linux, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android or something else… technology can certain deliver incredible benefits, but it can take some basic maintenance and learning how to do it to ensure things run smoothly, and that your privacy isn’t being invaded in ways that would have seemed like pure science fiction not that long ago.
I’ve no idea whether Phandroid dream of electric iSheep, or whether long suffering Crackberry addicts dream of tiled metro start screens.
I do know that many of these digital devices are often not officially supported any longer than the replicants this article’s title inspires, and when things go wrong, especially after the warranty (or extended warranty) period is over, even your impractical to fix device would know, were it sentient, that, like a Nexus 6, it’s time to die and be replaced by a new device of your choosing.
Perhaps that’s why the first non-smartphone Nexus from Google was the Nexus 7. Let’s hope its lifespan is longer than that of the Nexus 6 – or should those sleeping positronic android brains be set to search for sheep as we dream on?