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Android App Permissions - What are They?

Written by HeavenlyAndroid   
Saturday, 26 November 2011 06:00

So you've got an Android phone/tablet? You're chuffed to pieces, it's the best bit of kit you've ever had and you can't wait to delve straight into Google Android Market. There are so many Android apps to choose from, it makes your head spin. But it's as simple as tapping 'download', isn't it?

In an ideal world you really shouldn't have to worry, the scenario should be as simple as tapping a download button. Unfortunately, for Android users, a little bit of care and attention is also needed, to ensure you don't end up with any nasty extras you didn't bargain on. Besides only choosing to download Android apps from trusted sources such as Google Android Market, and not third party app stores (especially Chinese), it is also imperative to have a mobile security app on board such as Lookout Mobile Security. Even then, there are risks lurking that could compromise your personal security!



You may have heard the buzz about Android app permissions. You might be aware that you need to be vigilant about which permissions you accept when downloading apps to your phone. But the chances are that you haven't a clue which permissions are wrong for which app, if you even look at all.

Here at Heavenly Android we were guilty of not viewing permissions whilst downloading apps, and a particular app by developer Iconosys.Inc was, luckily, flagged up by Lookout Mobile Security as potential spyware. If you take a look at the link you will get an idea of excessive permissions. Upon contacting this particular developer, they pulled all of their apps from Google Android Market, and explained that the excess permissions had arisen due to lazy developers not locking them down.

An example of potentially malicious Android app permissions.

Permissions that are Potentially Harmful

There are 6 permissions that could be used maliciously to harm your phone, steal your personal details and incur you a debt you never caused. The other 9 can be ignored as they're not much use to any hackers.

1. System Tools (Retrieves running application information)

Usually needed for file manager applications. Gives hackers information concerning the apps you use. An easy way to gain personal information about yourself and should be investigated if it seems unnecessary.

2. Network Communication (Full internet access)

Although lots of innocent apps require internet access, this is one of the permissions to be particularly vigilant over. Afterall, your whole life is contained on your personal web nowadays and you don't want to let some malicious stranger become part of it do you?

3. Your Location (Fine (GPS) Location, Coarse (network based) location)

Location, location, location. Usually of upmost importance where privacy is concerned. Although this permission is unlikely to lead any hacker straight to your front door, they will be able to get a pretty good idea of your general whereabouts as they track you via GPS. This permission is needed if the app requires GPS connection. Maps and apps that find certain things such as shops, garages or restaurants require this permission.

4. Personal Information (Read contact data, read calendar data)

Unless the app in question is a social app such as Facebook, you really wouldn't want some hacker snooping around reading your conatct and calendar info, would you?

5. Storage (Modify/delete SD card contents)

Allows app to modify data, and therefore storage, on your SD card. A permission required by a whole host of apps.

6. Services That Cost You Money (Make phone calls, send SMS or MMS)

Would you like to run up a phone bill that you never even made? Be very wary if an app requires this permission, unless of course it is a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) app such as Skype. Not only can it call costly phone numbers without your knowledge, it can also send texts!

Last Updated ( Sunday, 05 February 2012 21:18 )


#3 Derek 2012-02-14 18:58
Many andoid apps need the SD permission to install themselves to the SD card to save space on the phones internal memory. Handcent needs messaging and 'things that cost money privelege' privileges because it is a replacement to the stock text messaging application. How else would it send text messages? While many stupid free game and wallpaper apps have sketchy permission issues you really should make your article less misleading (remove the handcent picture) and elaborate about permission such as SD card writing.
#2 jones777 2012-02-08 20:53
So true my friend. While i wouldnt go as far as returning my android for an iphone (cause iphone aint much better either), i AM frustrated with the permissions we have to give up in order to install even the most basic apps.
#1 returningandroidnext 2012-01-19 04:39
Basically this guide to safety says : you are not safe. Why do I not need to give permissions for ipod apps, yet android apps need require digging around in my personal info? mobile phones are such a prominent extension of humans these days. why is there next to no information on the internet about how dangerous android apps are? Every single app on the store requires access to something very personal. No I don't want my texts and mms being sorted through, No I don't want you on my internet. No I don't want any of these developers to have ANY information from me. why on earth is this the way android apps work? I feel like I should just return my android and get an iphone

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