New Appthority Report Finds Tens of Thousands of Ad-Supported Apps Are Collecting Excessive Data

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Media Release: Appthority, the global leader in enterprise mobile threat protection, today released a new report that analyzed iOS apps in corporate environments and found that more than 24,000 ad-supported apps are hiding their excessive data collection in plain sight, putting mobile users and enterprises at risk.

These apps, which openly acknowledge requesting various types of user data for advertising purposes, were found in more than 70% of enterprise environments. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as there is a much larger number of apps lurking in the enterprise that collect user data such as calendar, Bluetooth and photos—and are not upfront about their intentions.

Of the more than 2 million iOS apps scanned by Appthority, the 24,000 flagged were just the ones that openly ask users for access permission to deeper device functionality for advertising purposes. In fact, over 98% of enterprises have apps in their environments that display ads. These results suggest that data leakage from ad-supported apps is a much bigger problem than most enterprises realize.

“As a pioneer in the mobile security space, Appthority has long known that advertising within apps like Facebook is common and comes with risks, such as the leaking of users’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII),” said Seth Hardy at Appthority. “However, the Cambridge Analytica exposure made us wonder how many of these apps are directly accessing and using personal information for advertising.”

The reality is that apps that access data for advertising pose additional risks to enterprises and users compared to apps that access data solely for in-app functions. For example, ad-supported apps typically include third-party advertising libraries, which are not managed by the original app that employees trust and install. Therefore, information accessed by these advertising providers is usually not monitored or regulated by the original apps, users or by enterprises.

What’s more, ad-supported apps often access data without any real functional justification. When accessing data, mobile apps have to state a reason for wanting the access. Accessing data for in-app functions is a justifiable reason, but the iOS apps found were accessing data specifically for advertising purposes. This practice poses an important question about data access in enterprise environments: does the benefit of using the app outweigh the cost of losing control of user or enterprise data?

Because the app economy is heavily supported by ads, eliminating all apps that collect and use data for advertising from a device or enterprise environment is often not possible. But, the report also provides recommendations to users and enterprises to safeguard their data including, among others, being selective about granting permission to access data and deploying a Mobile Threat Defense solution to ensure visibility into and remediation of ad-supported and other app risks.

Register to download the full report here.

The post New Appthority Report Finds Tens of Thousands of Ad-Supported Apps Are Collecting Excessive Data appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.


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Apple Did Pull Calendar App That Mined Cryptocurrency From Mac App Store, Citing Excessive Use of Device Resources

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Yesterday, it was discovered that a Mac App Store app called Calendar 2 had implemented a cryptocurrency mining feature that users could elect to use to unlock in-app features rather than paying cash, raising questions about whether Apple planned to allow such apps in the Mac App Store.

Calendar 2 was mining a digital coin known as Monero, and initially, Apple was slow to respond to questions from Ars Technica about whether or not such a feature was permissible, resulting in the app staying in the Mac App Store for a good 24 hours after Apple knew of its existence. Shortly after widespread media reports about the cryptocurrency mining feature circulated the app disappeared from the Mac App Store, but at the time, it was not clear if it was Apple that removed the app or the app’s developer.


As it turns out, the app was indeed pulled by Apple. According to Greg Magarshak, CEO of Qbix, the company behind the Calendar 2 app, Apple removed the app from the Mac App Store for violating rule 2.4.2, which states that apps should not put an unnecessary strain on device resources.

Design your app to use power efficiently. Apps should not rapidly drain battery, generate excessive heat, or put unnecessary strain on device resources.

The Calendar 2 app was supposed to be using currency mining as an opt-in feature, but it was riddled with bugs causing the mining feature to use excessive resources and run regardless of whether or not users opted in, which is what drew so much attention to it. Just before the app was pulled from the Mac App Store by Apple, Magarshak promised to remove the feature from future versions of Calendar 2 because of these issues.

As of today, the Calendar 2 app is back in the Mac App Store. Magarshak said on Twitter that he worked with Apple to get a new version of the app released that has no mining features. As an apology for the snafu, all Calendar 2 users, new and old, will be provided with upgraded features for free for a year following the app’s next update. Calendar 2 uses should update immediately as the older version of the app continues to include the miner.

Magarshak tells MacRumors that Calendar 2 brought in approximately $2,000 from mining Monero, and the company says the funds will be used “towards improving features for our users going forward.”

Though the cryptocurrency mining feature made it past Apple’s review team and into the Mac App Store, it appears that based on Apple’s response and the rule violation cited, Apple will not be letting Mac App Store apps use background cryptocurrency mining as a way to unlock premium features within apps.

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How to Manage Excessive Junk Mail in iOS

We all receive junk mail on occasion. Sometimes, it’s promotional garbage from online shops. Other times, it’s requests for huge cash sums to assist a Nigerian prince, or miracle weight loss solutions, or even “performance enhancing” pharmaceuticals – either which way, know this: how you deal with junk mail can have a significant impact on the frequency of receiving spam. Thanks to a few handy tools afforded by iOS, dealing with junk mail on your iPhone or iPad is painless.

Manage Excessive Mail from Mailing Lists

The most common type of junk mail is the the stuff you get from the places you’ve shopped. Most online retailers will automatically opt you in to their marketing emails about sales, promotions, and new products under the guise of providing you an emailed receipt and order tracking. This junk is often tolerable at first, but slowly inflates your unread email count as more and more emails flow in.

These emails, while numerous, are often the easiest to unsubscribe from, especially thanks to a feature added in iOS 9. Prior to September 2016, the only effective way to be removed from these lists was to search the footer of the email for an unsubscribe button. That would send you off to the web to opt yourself out of future communications.

Since iOS 10, however, Apple has added a quick unsubscribe button above most mass-marketing emails which allows you to simply tap a button and be removed. While this isn’t 100% effective, it has certainly proved to be a welcomed addition.

Manage Unsolicited Spam Emails

The real junk mail we all hate dealing with is the unwanted, unsolicited spam. These are harder to deal with and come in a few forms, but with some due diligence, you can keep them out of your inbox. Before getting into how to deal with the spam, a key recommendation is to avoid opening spam messages if possible. Many of these messages contain a “web beacon,” or a tiny invisible image that is being monitored. When you open the email, the image is loaded from the spammers server, allowing them to know they have reached a valid email address, which often leads to more spam.

That being said, identifying the spam (or phishing) emails takes a little bit of common sense, and a little bit of attention to detail, but can be hard to detect without seeing the contents of the message. If you do open an suspicious emails, be on the lookout for many misspelled words, mismatched style or formatting, and often asking you to click a link for reason X or Y, as these are key indicators of spam. Instead, first check the subject of the email, as well as the name of the sender (the “From”). If either of these seem like they might be off, your best bet is probably do treat the message as spam.

Second, thanks to iOS’ inbox message preview, you can often see a sentence or two of an email. If the preview says “This message has no content.”, and it’s not an email from a friend or colleague, it’s safe to say that’s junk. Once you’ve identified a piece of spam, iOS provides a way to deal with it right from the inbox view.

  1. Swipe from right to left on the offending message
  2. Tap the ••• icon
  3. On the menu, tap “Mark…”
  4. Select “Move to Junk”

This will file the email into Junk within the email account that received the email (your Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, etc. account). Most modern email providers will learn based on your junk tagging to filter similar messages or emails from similar senders, and the flow of junk into your inbox should slow.

Another trick, especially if you’ve already opened a message, is to let Apple know so they can improve iOS (and iCloud mail) in the future. To do this, you can simply forward the message to spam@icloud.com. From there, Apple’s engineers can use various data from the email to build better spam and junk detectors into future versions of iOS, macOS, and iCloud.

One More Thing..

Another thing to keep in mind is that any email, whether it appears legitimate or not, asking you to send a password or other private information is an invitation for trouble. Unsolicited emails with links to “reset your password,” open a file, or click to perform an action, unless you explicitly requested or from a recognized sender, should be treated as a potential phishing or virus attempt, and should be sent directly to the spam folder.

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