Some Android games monitor your location

The Australian government’s Stay Smart Online service is advising that some Android games can reveal your location without the user being aware:

Many mobile educational and game applications (apps), despite being designed for young children, have been identified monitoring children’s geographical locations and selling the information to advertisers.

Apps on your phone may request permission to access location, address book, email, SMS and other information as part of their normal functions, but for some apps, access to this information may not be necessary. If you are concerned about the privacy of your family, read the permission information carefully and be selective about granting the app access to information on your phone.

Managing an app’s access to information requires careful attention to the permissions you give the apps when you load it on your smartphone or tablet.

Security firm Bitdefender recently warned about the practice after noticing that some Android games such as Kids Educational Puzzles were requesting permission to track their users’ locations. This information is often sold to advertisers, who use it to target advertisements to specific types of users in particular parts of the world.

Android devices will show a warning screen when an app is installed and run, outlining exactly what type of information it wants to access. The latest version of Android (4.3), installed on new Android devices, includes an App Ops feature that lets you allow or block specific activities for each installed app.

iPhones and iPads do not explicitly highlight the types of data they collect, but you can control apps’ access to location information by looking in Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

Read the whole article here.

Social media app winning over kids, but police warn of its nasty Kik

On Sunday, The Age published a report about the social media app Kik.

NSW Police have described it as ”the number one social media problem involving teenagers” – but most parents would barely have heard of messaging app Kik before this week.

Kik’s popularity among young people was highlighted by the disappearance of Sydney teenager Krystal Muhieddine, who left her house early on Tuesday morning in a car with a stranger before being found in country Victoria on Friday.

The app can be installed on iPod touch and iPad devices as well as smart phones. Instead of using phone numbers or real names to contact each other, each Kik member has a user name. Conversations and images can’t be viewed publicly, which makes it much harder for parents to monitor Kik than Facebook or Twitter.

Cyber safety expert Ross Bark said Kik and Instagram were a ”dangerous combination” for teenagers, who post photographs publicly on Instagram and then invite viewers to ”Kik me” privately to chat.

”They’re literally promoting themselves, saying ‘come and talk to me’,” Mr Bark said. ”They can randomly chat with somebody and send images, and they don’t understand the consequences of who is using that information.”

Read the whole story here.

StayFocusd Chrome Extension limits the time that you can spend online

StayFocusd is a productivity extension for
Google Chrome that helps you stay focused
on work by restricting the amount of time
you can spend on time-wasting websites.
Once your allotted time has been used up,
the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible
for the rest of the day.
It is highly configurable, allowing you to
block or allow entire sites, specific subdomains,
specific paths, specific pages, even specific
in-page content (videos, games, images, forms, etc).

You must use Google Chrome as your browser to use StayFocused. This could be quite a useful tool for both students and adults alike.

When a screen is their world

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that

Giving your child internet access isn’t damaging, but having no limits may be, writes Linda McSweeny.

Toddlers are navigating technology at a rapid pace, but left to their own devices, some of these tech-savvy kids could end up in a dark and possibly addicted head space by adolescence.

Psychologists say parents must pay attention to their children’s access to apps, online games and smartphones from a young age, to ensure they glean the benefits rather than the problems of our tech-heavy world.

Your children may have a problem if they:

  • Seem happy online but angry offline.
  • Focus on being online instead of doing homework or dining with family.
  • Spend more time online than with friends.
  • Refuse to admit how much time they are spending online.
  • Lose sleep to go online.

Although we know that technology is important to us all, the amount of time spent using it is one of the most important issues facing parents at the moment.. Read the article in its entirity here.

Third party apps and privacy

Two weeks ago I was the victim of cyberfraud. I pride myself on my internet skills and cybersafety and yet I was caught out. What happened, you ask?

I was using a third party app, giving permission for that app to use my Google credentials. The app itself seemed to be down, so I logged into the app’s website. Almost instantaneously, I could see emails being sent out under my email address directing everybody (over 500 people) in my address book to a dubious link. Although I changed my Google password immediately and revoked the third party app access, the damage had been done.

I’d like to think that I was a trusted contact of all of those 500 people. And unfortunately, that’s why some of my contacts clicked on the link in the rogue email. Because of that, some of that trust has now been diminished.

So my advice is review all of the third party apps you use, whether it be Google, Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. Consider revoking access to some of the sites you don’t use very often or are suspicious about. Think twice before you allow a new third party app to use/see your data. Change your password regularly. And never click on a link that you deem suspicious.

Snapchat and sexting

Snapchat is an app for iOS and Android that lets the user send a photo that can self destruct after a set period of time. Snapchat explains:

You control how long you want your friends to view your messages. We’ll let you know if we detect that they’ve taken a screenshot!

Recently I read in The Age that Cosmo magazine says Snapchat is the safe way to sext as the photos can’t be kept. However, as the snapchat FAQs explains, anyone can take a screenshot or screencast of your pic before it disappears. The only difference is you can control who sees your original upload and you can be alerted as to who has saved your picture.

However, once someone has saved your pic, there’s no way of controlling where and when it is reposted. Also as snapchat explains, without enacted privacy controls,

By default, anyone who knows your username or phone number can send you a message.

Read Mashable’s take on snapchat here and Common Sense Media’s view of snapchat here.

The lowdown is that anything sent digitally has the ability to be redistributed at a later stage. The ‘think before you send’ mantra still applies.

Malware found in Android apps

The Australian government’s Deaprtment of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy‘s Stay Smart Online site has published a concerning post regarding the possibility of apps in the Google Play store containing malware.

The post explains:

Google has removed 32 apps from Google Play after the apps were discovered carrying a new form of malware (BadNews).

Globally, the apps have been downloaded millions of times.

Although the apps are no longer available from Google Play, if you have already downloaded any of these apps on your device you will need to uninstall them, they contain malware which may access your personal information or introduce further costly malware.

Read more here. It’s worth considering subscribing to the Stay Smart Online alerts service, where items of concern are emailed to all subscribers.