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New Zealanders hold organisations and government responsible for securing data collected by mobile apps
Posted on 18-Jun-2013 13:39 | Tags Filed under: News

Just weeks after the 50 billionth mobile app was downloaded from the Apple App Store, a new survey from Unisys finds that New Zealanders hold a range of organisations responsible for the security of data that may be gathered by mobile apps.

The national study, part of the broader Unisys Security Index research programme, surveyed 505 adults aged 18+ between 9-15 April 2013 and was conducted by Consumer Link. The survey asked who should be responsible for protecting personal or financial data collected and stored in mobile apps.

The findings show that Kiwis put the weight of responsibility on the organisation offering the app to their customers or community, as well as the government. Only about half of respondents said individuals were personally responsible for protecting data collected by mobile apps.

Seven out of 10 New Zealanders surveyed said the provider of the service a mobile app links to, such as a bank or airline, is responsible for protecting personal or financial data collected. Government ranked second most responsible, despite previous Unisys research indicating New Zealanders were opposed to greater government surveillance of the internet.

“More and more organisations, such as banks, government departments, insurance companies, and airlines, are offering mobile apps as a way for people to interact with them,” said Steve Griffin, country manager, Unisys New Zealand.

“Some of these apps are clearly designed to gather information about the people who download them, such as a mobile app that helps insurance company customers to collect information from the scene of an accident and submit a claim. The Unisys Security Index findings send a clear signal to organisations that the public expects them to protect any personal data they collect via mobile apps,” Mr Griffin said.

At the same time, Griffin warned that individuals must also take personal responsibility for protecting their own personal information, particularly given that mobile apps may contain hidden malicious code designed to secretly gather and transmit data.

“Given the high rate of bring-your-own apps used in the workplace, it is worrisome that only 53 percent of Kiwis said they are responsible as individuals for securing data collected by mobile apps. Employees could inadvertently put their employers at risk by allowing mobile apps to capture sensitive information such as unencrypted data, location tracking, contacts and sign-on details,” Mr Griffin warned.

“It is essential that people become aware of the risks and take personal responsibility to minimise the chance of mobile apps accessing sensitive data – both their own and their employer’s,” he said

Unisys offers five tips to help minimise the risk of a mobile app stealing your personal data:

1. Before downloading a mobile app, review the app permissions to make sure that your personal information is not being shared with other third parties. Read the licensing agreement and privacy policy!
2. Avoid downloading or accepting invitations to join games that require you to enter your birth date, place of birth, etc., as this information is also often used in sign-on credentials.
3. Conduct an internet search on the app to see if there are any reports of it containing malicious code. Look at user reviews to see if there are any known issues with the app.
4. If that free app looks too good to be true, then it probably is – treat it with caution.
5. If it’s an app you want to use for work, check if your employer has a corporate app store that contains apps they have already reviewed and vetted as safe to use.

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