Kaspersky Lab today announced a new report, which highlights consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward their digital clutter, and how a lack of app maintenance could leave devices vulnerable to security threats.
Digital Clutter is a phenomenon resulting from increased amounts of content stored on smartphones, tablets and computers. The findings are part of a new report compiled by Kaspersky Lab called “Digital Clutter and Its Dangers.”* The study is based on insight gained from an online survey across 17 countries, an experiment into app performance by Kaspersky Lab internal testers and statistical analysis from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN).
The study found that consumers typically install 12 Android apps every month and delete only 10, in effect adding two apps to their device on a monthly basis. A build-up of apps means that it’s important to keep them up-to-date to prevent a mobile malware attack through an app vulnerability. Although half (55%) of survey participants said they regularly revise the contents of their devices and delete unused apps and content, a quarter of consumers (28%) only update apps on their devices when they are forced to, and 10 percent try not to do it at all.
One of the main dangers is that the apps themselves can put user data and devices at risk. Technical findings from Kaspersky Lab show that of 100 Android apps users can manage (i.e. install and delete), 83 have access to sensitive user data, such as contacts, messages and data, and can even make calls and send SMSs.
In addition, findings from KSN show how apps can operate without user permission. When a representative sample of 66 of the most popular Android apps were tested, 54 launched in the background without users even touching them, consuming, on average, 22Mb of traffic per day without any user interaction.
One way to control what an app or program can access is to be aware of application settings, and understanding its terms & conditions. However, the report found that only 33 percent of people intentionally adjust the settings of each application on any devices. Furthermore, 63 percent don’t read licensing agreements, read it too quickly or can only recall main points or not much of the material.
“Users are exposing devices and personal data to security threats by failing to undertake simple but essential care for their devices,” said Andrei Mochola, head of consumer business at Kaspersky Lab. “The build-up of digital clutter on our devices means that we increasingly overlook the maintenance of these apps. We do so at our peril because this can lead to a wide range of problems such as device glitches, battery life issues or malware infection. We urge users to put their digital houses in order. Just like a clean, uncluttered room breathes fresh energy into your home and life, in the same way, an uncluttered computer or smartphone results in a more enjoyable, and a crucially, safer experience.”
In order to combat the clutter and protect your personal data, users are advised to take the following steps:
- Update apps and software – regular updates should be undertaken as soon as new versions of apps and programs are released;
- Change app settings – manage how each app interacts with your devices. Failure to maintain settings – like those that can track user locations and share data with third party servers - may result in unused apps gaining access to information on the device without you being aware.
- ‘Spring clean’ your device – clear out and refresh the information stored on your devices; determine what information is stored on which apps and what permissions each program has.
- Use dedicated software – software cleaners such as the one integrated into Kaspersky Lab flagship security solutions, scan all applications installed on your device and mark those posing potential risk or are rarely used.
*The study “Digital Clutter and its Dangers” was based on insight gained from a unique combination of online research and technical analysis of security threats and app performance:
- Statistics from the Kaspersky Security Network, a cloud-based system that processes depersonalized cyber threat-related statistics received from millions of Windows and Android devices owned by Kaspersky Lab users across the globe.
- A real-life experiment on Android devices analyzed the performance of applications was conducted in January 2017 by Kaspersky Lab internal testers.
- An online survey conducted by research firm Toluna and Kaspersky Lab in January 2017 assessed the attitudes of 16,250 users aged over 16 years old from 17 countries. Data was weighted to be globally representative and consistent, split equally between men and women.