Free apps that sustain on placing advertisements inside the apps are popular, but such advertisements could compromise privacy.
Lookout Mobile Security estimates that about half of all the free apps in existence embed ads offered by ad networks. Some of these ad networks collect personal information from user phones. In fact, about 5 percent of all such ads carrying free apps, aggregating to about 80 million downloads come linked to ”aggressive” ad networks that go on to intrude into phone settings. For instance, such ad networks change bookmark settings, deliver ads outside the context of the app, push ads into the start screen or notification bar and more. Some ad networks go even beyond that and peddle scareware such as battery upgrade warnings.
Needless to say, these are apart from the risk of such ads carrying malware by stealth. Even if ad networks do not infect the mobile with malware, there is always the possibility of some enterprising cyber criminals stealing the data collected on the mobile user from the ad network’s server, or even unscrupulous ad networks selling such data in the underground black market.
Research suggests that the bulk of the aggressive ad networks come embedded with personalization apps such as wallpaper apps, entertainment apps and game apps.
The best safeguard against such threats is to refrain from downloading free apps. When that is not always possible, stick to downloading only tried and tested free apps, from reputed vendors. A small charge for a game may well be worth it considering the potential damage or inconvenience that such aggressive ad networks cause.