The popularity of parental control apps is growing rapidly as parents try to keep their kids away from the harmfulness of the internet. These apps enable a safe online environment for your kids. You can control what they see online and track their activity. However, not all child tracking apps are as safe as we expect or should be. Cybernews security researchers have found that some of the most popular parental control apps have serious privacy and security flaws that put both parents and children at risk.
Child tracking apps have been found to spy on parents and children
Cybernews rated ten popular kid tracking Android apps with over 85 million cumulative installs and found that the apps can spy on parents. Some of them even contain links to malicious websites. No app has received the top rating for data protection or adhered to the highest security standard.
According to the new report, only one app that goes by the name Pingo by Findmykids, achieved a Mobile Security Framework (MobSF) score of more than 50. But even its score of 53 is not quite enough. MobSF scores range from zero to 100, with a higher number indicating a more secure system. An app called Phone tracker by number only got 25 points.
Interestingly, this was the most installed app out of the ten tested during this research, with over 50 million installs. Worse, it also received the lowest privacy score, indicating “critical risk.” MobSF privacy grades range from A to F, with A indicating the highest level of privacy. Seven of the apps tested received a B grade, two a C grade.
The new report finds that the Phone tracker by number app ranked #47 among the best free apps in the US social media category. Besides poor implementation of privacy and security measures, it has numerous other loopholes. It allows other apps on the device to access its information. This allows threat actors to learn the location of a child tracking a parent.
This app is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, the researchers concluded. Family Locator – GPS Tracker & Find Your PhoneApp, Family GPS Tracker KidsControl, and FamiSafe: Parental Control App are also vulnerable to MITM attacks. The report notes that developers can change the names of the apps in the Google Play Store.
These apps also contain third party trackers and malicious links
It has also been found that these parental control apps contain third party trackers as well as malicious links. All ten apps contain third-party trackers that allow unauthorized access to parental and child data. All information such as accounts, passwords, location and shared media can be made available to third parties.
In addition, these apps also store hard-coded API (Application Programming Interface) keys. According to the report, “API keys are used for authentication purposes, allowing apps to recognize individual users and vice versa. Storing API keys can lead to security issues if an attacker finds a way to access them.” According to the report, some of the hard-coded API keys could also be responsible for protecting user data. Losing these keys to attackers can compromise sensitive information.
Last but not least, four of the analyzed apps contained malicious links. While the apps don’t necessarily have to be infected with malware, the presence of these links is still a concern. They can direct users to websites with malware.
This finding paints a frightening picture. The apps parents hope will protect their children online are opening backdoors into the darkness of the internet. This can allow unauthorized access to their information and compromise their security and privacy. A security researcher suggested that apps from independent developers might not be the best parental control solution. These developers may lack robust software development programs. As such, they use third-party code from open-source libraries, which may have privacy and security vulnerabilities.
If you use any of the apps mentioned in this article to keep tabs on your kids, you might want to switch to a more secure one. Make sure you do proper research before downloading. You can search for online reviews as well as user reviews.