Could the apps you have installed on your mobile phone be snooping on you? Based on the latest data from app security analytics firm Appthority, it's not merely possible; it's actually more than likely, particularly if you downloaded those apps for free.
According to Appthority's Winter 2014 App Reputation Report, released this week, 95 per cent of the top 200 free apps for iOS and Android exhibited at least one risky behavior. But so did 80 per cent of the top 200 paid apps, meaning pretty much all apps should be considered suspect.
The so-called risky behaviors Appthority identified in its study included location tracking, accessing the device's address book or contact list, single sign-on via social networks, identifying the user or the phone's unique identifier (UDID), in-app purchases, and sharing data with ad networks and analytics companies.
After analyzing the code of the top 200 free and paid apps on iOS and Android, Appthority concluded that all of these categories were commonplace, but the riskiest ones were particularly prevalent among free apps.
For example, 70 per cent of free apps tracked the user's location, compared to just 44 per cent of the paid apps studied. Similarly, more than half of all of the free apps used social network sign-ons, identified the user, offered in-app purchasing, or shared user data with ad networks – any of which could easily be abused by malicious apps. Less than half of paid apps displayed each of these behaviors.