That innocent Flashlight App you installed on your device to shed light on certain situations is also spying on you, and potentially selling or using your personal data. Especially vulnerable are Android devices.
Gary Miliefsky of cyber security firm Snoopbit, says, "'We've all become victims of installing many apps on our smartphones and tablets that do much more than the service they should provide. We have opened a Pandora's Box to online predators, cyber criminals and spies - all through these apps we foolishly trust."
The firm did a study of the top ten Android flashlight apps and found that when downloaded they are given permission to access sensitive user information that clearly has nothing to do with their function as a simple flashlight for their users.
The company tested the top ten flashlight apps on Android and determined that each and every one of them collects unnecessary user data and accesses areas of the device wholly unrelated to the function of the app. The offending apps include: Super Bright LED flashlight, Brightest Flashlight Free, Tiny Flashlight + LED, Flashlight, Brightest LED Flashlight, Color Flashlight, High Powered Flashlight, Flashlight HD LED and Flashlight: LED Torchlight. A chart on the company's website specifically breaks down the areas to which the app is permitted access.
Regarding the flashlight apps, the firm warns, "Some appear specifically designed to collect and expose your personal information to cybercriminals or other nation states. In addition, you are at significant risk if you are doing Mobile Banking on the same device as one of these free Flashlight Apps."
Many of the apps have the ability to read phone status and identity, view Wi-Fi connections, modify system settings, obtain full network access, and determine your precise location via your phone's GPS, among other permissions. The company recommends you uninstall your flashlight app immediately in order to protect your device's data and info.
While the firm concludes that the pre-installed iPhone flashlight app seems safe, third-party apps on Windows Phone and at the iTunes store are also accessing unnecessary sensitive user data and location information, and unnecessarily using the internet, collecting data and building user profiles. Apps using iOS and Windows Phone OS are not as dangerous as those running Android, however, and cannot "hide in the background", according to Snoopbit.