We see a rapid rise in photo editing software as smartphones and 4K cameras become increasingly popular. Photography may only be a hobby for you, or you may be passionate about it—using photo editing software to apply a stylish filter to your snap before you post it online is something you love doing now and then.
There’s a crowd of photo editing apps available out there. However, not all of them are safe to use. Read on as we make you aware of some serious privacy and security concerns photo editing software pose.
Why Are Photo Editing Apps a Threat to Your Security?
True, apps of all kinds are found regarding user security and privacy. However, photo editing apps deal with our sensitive data, and they seek multiple permissions by default while doing so. With both Google Play and Apple’s App Store featuring hundreds of these apps, there must have been millions of downloads.
Regardless of which program or web-based editing tool you choose, it is likely that you will give up more data than expected. For instance, each image has metadata. That includes information about the picture and its production. For example, that can consist of the time you took the photo with your smartphone. A more disturbing feature is that it can reveal the location of where the photo was taken.
Which Apps Are a Threat?
The researchers conducting a study chose Google Play and typed in “beauty camera.” 30 of the most popular apps were picked. Of these, 29 sought access to the camera and files, 23 demanded access to the microphone and location details, and one wanted to scan contacts. Moreover, 16 of these apps were found to be from China or Hong Kong—nations are known to have lax privacy laws.
Beauty Camera was found to be highly suspicious. This app goes ahead and uses your camera without seeking your consent. Such apps might even be classified as spyware for these cover habits.
A Security Threat
The BeautyPlus app has been downloaded by millions and has been identified as malware or spyware by the Indian Government, and hence, military personnel was strictly told not to use it.
In 2017, the app’s developer was accused of harvesting user data to resell it. The other apps aren’t any better, either. Take Face App for instance, which has been investigated by the FBI.
Developed in Russia, this app was flagged by the FBI as a “potential counter-intelligence threat.” Yaroslav Goncharov, the app’s founder, did come up with a strong denial saying on Forbes that the photos and data of Americans are stored on servers based in the US.
In 2021, cybersecurity researchers revealed that users’ Facebook credentials were being stolen by three top-rated photo editing apps- Pix Photo Motion Edit, Blender Photo Editor-Easy Photo Background Editor, and Magic Photo Lab – Photo Editor. Further analysis showcased that these apps could require users to log in through Facebook. The apps could then steal the credentials, and scout user accounts for payment information.
The Threat Posed by Lensa
The photo app Lensa puts a question mark on how much information you should share when using specific software. Mark McCreary, co-chair of the privacy and data security group at the law firm Fox Rothschild says that Lensa creates fake photos of users that look incredibly real.
While Lensa says that all data is deleted within 24 hours, what happens within that 24-hour window is worrisome. Besides, is the data deleted, or can it be recovered on backups or third-party storage servers?
Lensa brings with it the risk of you losing control over your biometric data. That can have devastating consequences. It’s an aspect that needs to be investigated seriously when users share photos on Lensa or even TikTok. Your photos can be taken by just about anyone to create a fake or AI-generated photo, audio, or video output of yours.
Stay Safe and Private
Malicious photo apps can direct you to shady websites, and they can also be used to launch phishing attacks. Furthermore, they can serve as a gateway for other dangerous software.
Thus, we recommend having robust antivirus software protecting your device. Furthermore, read reviews about the programs you plan to use. For instance, if Google has verified its security, it might be less suspicious than others. Also, install a VPN for PC to guarantee that your data is safer on unknown websites and web-based tools. For instance, a Virtual Private Network will throw scammers off your scent by hiding your actual location. Such masking happens because a VPN replaces your IP address linked to a location of your choice.
Be Picky About What You Install
Whenever you feel like installing a new app, it is crucial to go through a specific screening process. First, review its entry on Google Play or another software distributor. If you have found the software application on an unknown third-party site, avoid it.
For all you know, it could contain malicious or unnecessary components. In other cases, even if the software is not dangerous, it could be improperly programmed. Then, it could unwittingly serve as an entrance for other infections.
So, please read about the app on reputable reviewers’ sites and see what red flags they saw. For instance, online ads could be one annoying feature when it comes to free applications. If you plan to get a subscription, check the prices before downloading.
Finally, if the app seems suspicious or unnecessary after downloading it, do not keep it around. Remove it immediately, and do not forget to double-check whether it is gone. Some unwanted programs modify registry keys, and that makes them difficult to remove.
There are reasons why all this is occurring. Photo editing apps are being downloaded on mobiles in millions. Cybercriminals and shady developers see this as a window of opportunity they can use to launch push ads and malware.
They can also collect user data to make money. While we don’t ask you to stop using photo editing software altogether, it’s wise to be a bit cautious and choose those that don’t threaten your privacy.