Applications became an inseparable part of our day-to-day lives. We use them every few minutes to check our messages, read an article, or migrate files. Every single minute there are new applications added in the app stores.
Obviously, this opportunity couldn’t pass over threat actors who use every single chance to make money on us.
Now, with the COVID-19 situation, hackers proliferate more than ever: there are more than 400 applications on App Store dedicated to the coronavirus or in one way or another related to public health agencies.
While some of them are most likely benign, there is obviously a fair share of fake apps that are potentially dangerous and put your data in danger.
But it is not only the mobile or tablet third-party apps that present a risk. There are also tons of 3rd party apps, extensions, and plugins for WordPress that can put you at risk as well.
How can you maintain your Google apps security in such an environment? We will talk about it at the end; now, let’s find out more about all the risks related to third-party apps usage and get prepared!
Two Key Risks of Third-Party Apps
Your employees or even you can use some doubtful extensions and plugins to make your work and site more efficient. As a result, you are putting your data at high risk.
Data Leakage and Theft
The biggest problem for both individuals and businesses is the possibility of their data being leaked and/or stolen. Some applications and extensions contain Spyware (aka Stalkerware). The Trojan in an app infects the device and gains access to everything: camera, banking information, documents, text messages.
All this information can get compromised in many ways:
- Used for blackmailing you
- Used to steal money from the bank account, etc.
Some versions of Stalkerware may be bearable, but others can become a dangerous and pervasive menace when used by a malicious actor. For instance, most governments and nation-state actors have a history of downloading Spyware on journalists’ mobile phones or tab to track their location and deter them from delivering specific data that may be viewed as sensitive or defamatory.
The problem can get worse if the application manages to get access to your google cloud data. Why worse? Because then all the data in the cloud, including shared folders with your peers or vendors, can be put in jeopardy.
If a data breach happens in the public cloud, the provider may not be contractually obligated to alert tenants that a violation has occurred. Along the same lines, the inbuilt tools that are given by public cloud merchants often do not grant clarity to the internal activities of end-users, which may indicate cybersecurity incidents are taking place.
Another significant risk of third-party apps is data loss. Since hackers’ target is profit, they will use every opportunity to get it. Ransomware is one of the widely popular methods that help threat actors to get money from you.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts the user’s data and blocks access to it until the victim pays a ransom. But often, even paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee the victim will get their data back.
How can you get infected? Mostly through different permissions, you may grant to an application or extension. If you download a photo editing application, it can ask permission to access your photo gallery or your Google Photo folder. If you grant the access, and the app will turn out to be malicious, it can encrypt all your Google Photo folder and ask for money.
If you don’t pay, your data will whether stay encrypted until you find a decryption key for this particular type of ransomware or pay a ransom, or get deleted by threat actors.
How to Secure Data From Malicious Third-Party Apps?
Now that you are aware of all the risks third-party apps present to your data security, what shall you do next?
The biggest trick is to distinguish between a benign app and a malicious one. It is easy to buy reviews, create a legitimate-looking facade, and wind up ratings.
It is almost impossible to find a difference between a harmful and harmless application. Developers create fake apps look exactly like the legitimate ones, buying the reviews, and winding up ratings. But there are still some ways you can secure yourself and a team if you have one.
#1 Do Your Due Diligence Thoroughly
We know that making a background check of every application you want to install may seem too much. But if an app doesn’t come from AppStore, you better check it. Read other users’ reviews of the app and see if there are any expert reviews available. If anything in any review indicates that the app is fraudulent or faulty, stay away.
#2 Create a Must-Follow Policy About Using Work Devices and Accounts Outside of Work
Employees should not give access to applications or extensions that are not included in the whitelist. Also, they should not use those devices for personal reasons because it continues to increase the risk of catching ransomware while scrolling through the internet.
If you provide work devices, then this rule should apply to work accounts – employees shouldn’t install any apps or extensions and offer them access using their corporate accounts.
#3 Use a Service that Monitors Risky Apps or a Firewall that Will Block Suspicious Apps
This is the safest and easiest way. Even though whitelist apps policies lower the risk of being infected, they do not eliminate the possibility of it happening. The apps monitoring service allows you to keep track of every permission employee grants to the apps.
Spin Technology scans 3rd-party apps daily. The service automatically recognizes and blocks all risky business apps that demand access to your critical G Suite data.