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Experts Identify Easy Way to Improve Smartphone Security

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Most users pay little attention to permissions that request access to their personal information, selecting "yes" to permission requests out of habit.

Researchers at Purdue University say assigning risk scores to apps may make risks more transparent to users, and thus incentivize developers to ask for less-sensitive data.

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Purdue University researchers recently led a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded project, "User-Centric Risk Communication and Control on Mobile Devices," investigating computer security and focusing on user control of security features in mobile systems. "Although strong security measures are in place for most mobile systems, the area where these systems often fail is the reliance on the user to make decisions that impact the security of a device," the researchers say.

Most users do not pay attention to unwanted access to their personal information, instead ignoring security warnings and consenting to all app permissions. "In our studies, we found that there exist correlations between the quality of an app and the average rating from users, as well as the ratio of negative comments about security and privacy," says Purdue professor Luo Si.

The researchers say assigning a risk score to each app and displaying a summary of that information may reduce unwarranted access to personal information by making the risk more transparent and by giving incentive to developers to use less personal information. The researchers also found risk scores could lead to more user curiosity about security-related information, thereby reducing how often security warnings are disregarded.

From National Science Foundation
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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