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Be warned … that new app could make you vulnerable to cybercrime

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As with every new tool, these apps have given fraudsters new vectors to slip past fraud prevention solutions - report.

A report released on Tuesday by Aon found that annual global cyber losses were expected to reach $6 trillion (R88 trillion) by 2021, with cybersecurity spending set to exceed $1 trillion cumulative in the five years period leading up to 2021. Photo: Pixabay

CAPE TOWN – With the advent of the 4th industrial Revolution kicking in smart mobile devices will no doubt gain popularity and have nearly every aspect of our lives consolidated into one interface.

Smart devices are getting more affordable, and a lot more functional in that the apps being developed range from banking apps, payment apps and even apps that monitor your heart rate.

However, as with every new tool, these apps have given fraudsters new vectors to slip past fraud prevention solutions, according to a report by emailage, the global fraud prevention agency. 

A report released on Tuesday by Aon, the global professional services company, found that annual global cyber losses were expected to reach $6 trillion (R88 trillion) by 2021, with cybersecurity spending set to exceed $1 trillion cumulative in the five years period leading up to 2021.

Personal information is widely available to criminals online. They can extract it from various sources, including social media. So much information is also stored on smartphones that fraudsters have realised this information could be very valuable in exploiting the end user. 

The answer is in the terms and conditions, advises South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (Waspa).

Waspa said in a statement on Tuesday that millions of mobile users were potentially putting themselves at risk by not reading the associated terms and conditions when downloading an app.

Waspa has previously cautioned cellular users to be “app-aware” so that they do not automatically grant app permissions without properly thinking about what they are doing. They should question why an app would need access to information unrelated to its function.

Waspa general manager Ilonka Badenhorst said legitimate app stores now expressly indicated the presence of ads within downloaded apps. “App permissions like contacts being accessed are now also routinely and visibly indicated. 

“Unfortunately, accessing specific terms and conditions usually requires mobile users to navigate to external websites where lengthy legal agreements are hosted.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests most consumers do briefly scan the bullet-pointed app permissions but very few of us analyse the often overwhelming terms and conditions before downloading an app,” said Badenhorst.

WASPA advises consumers to be wary of apps that:

  • Have onerous terms and conditions that seem to wind on forever.
  • Use terms not commonly seen in legitimate end-user licence agreements such as “perpetual” and “irrevocable”.
  • Mention vague third parties that do not appear to be easily-identifiable.
  • Related to the above, app terms and conditions that seek to transfer your rights or intellectual property onto others are to be approached with caution.

Badenhorst said mobile users should remember they had the power to choose which permissions to give and which legalities to agree to and they should exercise this authority with due regard for their privacy, personal security and financial wellbeing.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE