A new edition of Norton Mobile Security (NMS) rolled out on Wednesday introduces a new privacy feature for identifying which Android apps are putting users’ personal information at risk. Also new is antitheft protection for iPhones and iPads.
On the Android side, Norton Mobile Insight, an intelligence feature previously available online only, has now been embedded directly into NMS, said James Nguyen, senior product manager at Symantec, in a briefing for TabletPCReview.
On the iOS side, Symantec has added a scream alarm, formerly available only for Android devices, to help users find a lost or stolen iPhone or iPad. Users can remotely manage the alarm through the NMS portal, he noted.
For Android users, NMS now scans apps for privacy risks, alerting the user about apps that are known to export personal information such as the user’s phone number, location, or photos.
“We want to let people know as much as possible about what information is being collected and how it might be used, so that they make informed decisions about whether an app is worth the download,” Nguyen told TabletPCReview.
Nguyen cited results of a study by Pew Research showing that 57 percent of app users have uninstalled or declined to install apps over concerns about the privacy of their personal information.
300,000 Malicious Android Apps
To support Norton Mobile Insight, Symantec has collected, run, and inspected more than four million Android apps, located in more than 200 app stores worldwide.
Of these, Symantec has identified about 300,000 apps as malicious, and another 1.7 million as “potentially unwanted” greyware apps.
Information that can be collected by apps includes the user’s phone number, location, personal account details, calendar events, and SMS messages, for instance.
Where a GPS navigation app would really need the user’s location information, and some other apps might have features that require it, another app asking permission for this information — such as a cooking app – might not really need to know where you are, Nguyen pointed out.
Beyond Permissions, Looks at Actual App Behaviors
An app might use personal information to put ads in the notification bar, add icons to the device screen, modify browser bookmarks, or play audio ads after dialing.
The purveyor of a malicious app might sell users’ phone numbers to telemarketers, leaving them at risk for getting bombarded with SMS spam.
“We are only reporting on behaviors that have a significant implication to privacy,” Nguyen told TabletpCReview.
The new edition of NMS also extends Web protections beyond the default Android browser to the Chrome for Android browser.
Priced at $29.99, NMS can be purchased through retailers, the Norton online store, or Google Play.
Symantec also plans to add the new features to its Norton One and Norton 360 Multi-Device products.