A recent technology discussed in the realm of internet security is madware (mobile adware).  The primary question is whether or not it is a legitimate threat to security or simply a terrible inconvenience.  Adware on mobile devices is more noticeable than adware on traditional computers because the viewing screens are significantly smaller.  While the same number of ads may be displayed, it is more overwhelming on  smaller mobile screens.

Madware is a Growing Problem

There is no denying that the amount of advertising seen on mobile devices has skyrocketed over the past several years.  One recent study noted the number of apps using madware has increased by more than 210%.  The most discussed form of madware is pop-up ads which fill the entire screen.  Most invasive madware can send text without the user’s consent and can even change ringtones. However, industry experts agree adware is a necessary evil in many situations because it allows honest app developers to give away their apps for free.

Madware is Not Inherently Malicious

The most important fact to keep in mind is madware is not inherently malicious.  App developers who give their apps away for free utilize madware to generate income.  This guarantees ongoing support for their apps which benefits both developers and users alike.  The average free app contains ads from only 2 networks.  While the ads are noticeable, they are far from invasive.  On the extreme end of the spectrum, some free apps contain as many as 17 ad networks.  As more apps add more ad networks to generate income, the problem of madware becomes more noticeable.

Huge Potential for Abuse – Particularly Identity Theft

The true threat from madware isn’t how it is being used in most apps, but rather the potential for abuse that accompanies madware.  Unlike mobile apps, which explicitly state what level of access or permission is needed for the app to run, there is no way to track what information the madware is accessing.  In most cases, the permission level required by the madware will be included in the permissions description of the app. The problem is it is difficult to know what level of access the app itself utilizes and what level of permissions is solely used by the madware.

If madware is used maliciously there are several likely internet security threats.  With the way madware operates, it is easy to picture a scenario  in which the app unintentionally burdens consumers with huge data bills.  Other possible outcomes include messaging fraud and identity theft.

Madware is similar to other types of internet security threats because it isn’t inherently dangerous.  At the same time, it can easily be utilized for malicious purposes.  As a consumer, it is essential to pay attention to the apps being installed on your mobile device.  The key is to not only focus on what the app does, but also on what madware is included.  If the madware is only responsible for a slight inconvenience, such as pop-up ads, then there is little worry about.  However, when the madware starts taking proactive actions, such as sending messages and collecting large amounts of personal data, it would be wise to remove the associated app from your mobile device

Matt Harper stays up to date on the newest technology and how the impact the users online security and privacy. He writes to caution his readersof the risks online and suggests solutions. One tool he suggests is using a VPN (virtual private network). A reliable provider can be found at http://www.goldenfrog.com/vyprvpn/buy-vpn


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