Declutter your phone to avoid security threats

Regularly downloading the latest trending apps on your smartphone may be the reason you often struggle with freeing up memory space on your phone. From addictive games and social media apps, to online shopping and photo editing apps, your downloads and growing interests can digitally clutter your phone in a short period of time.

If this sounds too familiar, then your next step is to look into the practice of regular digital decluttering.
A recent survey showed that just over half of smartphone users (55 per cent) regularly refresh and revise the contents of their device and delete unused documents and apps.

The survey, which was conducted across 17 countries around the world by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, showed that users typically install 12 Android apps every month but delete only 10, in effect adding two apps to their device on a monthly basis.

“Users are exposing devices and personal data to security threats by failing to undertake simple but essential care for their device that cleans and updates software and apps, adjusts settings and uninstalls apps that are no longer used,” said Andrei Mochola, head of Consumer Business at Kaspersky Lab.

Along with low memory space, an explosion in the usage of apps can leave your phone vulnerable to security threats.

The survey also showed that 28 per cent of users only update apps on their devices when they are forced to, and in 10 per cent of cases they try not to do it at all.

“Not known to many, apps can also operate without user permission,” added Mochola.

In the study, when a representative sample of 66 of the most popular Android apps was tested, 54 launched in the background without users touching them, consuming on average 22 MB traffic per day without any user interaction.

Despite app settings giving users a degree of control over the information the app can access and interact with on a smartphone, only 40 per cent of people were found to intentionally adjust the setting on their device, showed the study.

“The build-up of digital clutter can also lead to a wide range of problems such as device glitches, battery life issues or malware infection,” said Mochola.

Just the same, Farrukh Naeem, tech blogger and social media strategist based in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News that digital clutter on a smartphone could be avoided by carefully evaluating the “permissions an app asks for” and checking reviews and ratings before downloading it.

“Ask yourself if the level of access the app is asking for is related for it to work properly. It’s always a good idea to check default settings of an app and turn off all features you do not need or ones that drain your battery or storage — from default downloads to sending usage data to app developers,” said Naeem.

He pointed out that some apps are taking advantage of the fact that many people consider their phone to be a safe box, storing all types of sensitive information — from photos and videos to location, search history, and financial transactions.

“Most approved apps ask for your permission before they get access to your contacts, camera, photo gallery and microphone. When permission for access to a feature is given, that’s when it becomes vulnerable to misuse if the app developer is not reliable,” explained Naeem.

He referred to well-known antivirus brands that have also expanded through apps to ensure phone security and phone clean-up. “These apps can clean up phone junk, free up RAM and storage space and also have a virus scanning capability,” he added.

Box: Tips to declutter your phone

Check default settings of an app and turn off all features you do not need or ones that drain your battery or storage

Use free apps that offer one-click option to free up RAM space

Use the inbuilt storage and performance features of a smartphone or apps to clean up your smartphone

Store apps including photos and video on memory cards and turn off automatic downloads on apps to save the phone storage from getting filled up quickly

Use accredited anti-virus apps to keep your phone secure

Evaluate the permissions an app asks for and check reviews and ratings before downloading it

Avoid downloading untrusted third party apps that are not vetted by the official app stores


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