Christian Apps Upload Churchgoers’ Location to Third Parties, Bitdefender Warns
Your religious-themed app just might know when you skip a church service. And some of the data you transmit through the heavens might be going straight to the underworld.
An increasing number of churchgoers are targeted by Christian-themed apps that monitor their location and could upload information to dubious third parties, according to Bitdefender. The antivirus software provider has discovered several Android applications that might be violating the unspoken commandment that “Thou shalt not take unnecessary risks with thy neighbor’s sensitive smartphone data.”
Free apps such as Varsity Catholic, Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. John the Baptist Parish and iCatholic have the ability to track users’ location while they are open. However, most claim this permission helps them find Mass and Confession services on the go.
Christian Dating, which calls itself the dating world’s “largest community” for almost 30 Christian denominations including Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans, has created an app for relationships and mingling that uploads users’ locations to advertising platforms. In the meantime, the app has been removed from Google Play.
The connection was not encrypted and could be intercepted, according to Bitdefender Labs. Christians dating through the app also had their device’s unique identifier sent to third parties. The unique device identifier can be used to track user behavior across apps. The app didn’t need these permissions to function.
“An unshakeable faith is not recommended when it comes to Android app installations,” said Bitdefender Chief Security Strategist Catalin Cosoi. “While location tracking can sometimes be useful, it hides security risks and is one of the most-abused features of apps. Users should approach all permissions and apps with a healthy dose of skepticism. Personal data sent to third-parties may be uploaded to scammers’ data bases for fraud and identity theft attacks.”
Bitdefender warns users to check the permissions requested by the apps. People should make sure they can trust the developers, as some are also able to send text messages and make calls in users’ behalf.
To prevent accessing risky apps, users can install Clueful, a free Bitdefender app for Android and iOS that identifies intrusive apps and shows users how these could abuse their personal information.
This article is based on the technical information provided courtesy of Tiberius Axinte, Bitdefender Malware Researcher.
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