Is This App Secure? | Guidelines on How to Check Whether the Software Is Safe to Use

With around 50% of people working from home due to quarantine rules, data privacy has become one of the hottest topics. Heavily relying on communication and cloud storage services to conduct the work, companies are afraid that hackers, Internet service providers or the government might read their private messages and get access to their documents and videos. The only way to avoid data leakage is to learn which software is safe to use. 

The IT market has made it more important to launch a usable product in time than spend more days to work on the security of the software. Many companies think they will improve the security later which is either not possible or it’s done when billions of their users’ data gets stolen. 

Just recently we have found out that Zoom has been falsely claiming that it’s end-to-end encrypted and safe to use. Since Zoom is not open-source, it was almost impossible to verify whether they were lying or not. It’s not just Zoom, a bunch of services we use on a daily bases keep on lying about their software security. 

This is not the time to blindly believe everyone. You need to know the basic ways to check whether the service you use is secure or not. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t require any technical background to do it yourself.

End-to-end encryption 

One of the first things to check for when choosing a service is whether or not they use end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means only you and the person you share the files with have the “keys” to access them. This means no third-party can access your data. 

Open-source code

Open-source code is like the list of ingredients. By making it open to experts, the software company makes it possible for anyone to see its weaknesses. Usually, if the software you use is open-source, you can be sure it’s reliable. The IT community is a jungle and only the best and honest ones survive. It’s easy to check, just google the name of the software and use the keyword “open source”. You will come across many articles and Reddit discussions from random users and experts. 

Many closed-source software companies like Zoom get away with hiding their product security flaws. If it’s an open-source software, the company won’t be able to lie about the encryption that they don’t have.

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Talking about the discussions, pay attention to the reviews on the app stores, forums and social media. People don’t hesitate to share their bad experiences and tell what’s wrong with the service or whether this or that software is safe. Meanwhile, you should know no company is perfect and if you see only good reviews that look similar it could be that their employees were paid to leave five-star reviews. This is a common practice on app stores and Glassdoor. 

Data Collection

Read the privacy policy on the provider’s page. They are obliged to inform about any kind of data and metadata collection. For instance, Twitter has just announced about its privacy policy changes. From now on our data will be shared with advertisers and Twitter partners whether we want it or not. 

Beware when giving permissions. Some apps ask for your location, contact list or even access to your media and camera. If you feel that a meditation app shouldn’t ask access to your media, then don’t hesitate to say no and contact the developers for clarifications or simply refuse to use the service. 

Free to use

We’ve all heard the expression that if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product. It’s true. If the service is 100% free, they earn on selling your data and bombarding you with ads. This usually doesn’t apply to so-called freemium plans when you first get the free version then they make you pay. Bare this in mind, any service is a business and no businessman is crazy enough to spend millions on the product and gain nothing from it.

The Coronavirus has taken a lot from us, don’t let your data be taken by dishonest corporations and hackers that use the momentum to earn money. As you see, it’s not hard to check whether the software is safe or not. Follow these simple rules and lifehacks to choose a reliable service both for you and your company.