As smartphone technology continues to evolve, so do the number of apps available for download. While many of these apps are beneficial and provide users with a variety of features, there is a darker side to app development that can potentially put your privacy and personal information at risk. So, can apps steal your photos? Let's take a closer look.
Can apps steal your photos?
Any app that has permission to access the device's camera and/or photo gallery can potentially steal your photos. This includes popular social media apps like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Even if you don't share your photos publicly, the app provider could in theory send them to their servers.
Further, there have been a number of reports in recent years about photo-stealing apps that are available for download on popular app stores. These apps typically masquerade as legitimate applications, such as games or photo editors, but once installed, they will secretly access your device's camera and/or photo gallery and send the images to a remote server. In some cases, the app will also include a watermark or logo on the images in an attempt to make it more difficult for you to spot that your photos have been stolen.
While photo-stealing apps are certainly a cause for concern, it's important to keep in mind that they are not the only way that your photos can be stolen.
How can you tell if an app is stealing your photos, and what can you do about it if it is?
So, how can you tell if an app is stealing your photos? Unfortunately, it's not always easy to spot these types of apps, as they often look and function just like any other app. However, there are a few signs that you can watch out for.
There are pretty much only two ways to find out if an app is stealing your photos.
The undeniably best way to catch apps stealing your photos is using a proper security app. Some security apps not only cross-check your installed apps with databases of known fraudulent apps but also monitor unusual activities. Such remain hidden from users as they have no real visible feedback usually. I know it might be a turn-off but I will still say it: invest a few bucks a year for some proper security app. The cost per day is usually only a few cents and it is worth every penny considering the alternative of losing all your photos to cyber criminals.
Paying for a security app is the best way to protect your photos from being stolen by malicious apps. However, there are also a few free options available that can help you keep an eye on which apps have access to your photos:
- If an app is stealing photos it results in a certain amount of data traffic. So one way to tell if your photos are being stolen is to keep an eye on your data usage. If you notice that your data usage is suddenly increasing for no apparent reason, it could be a sign that your photos are being uploaded without your knowledge.
- Another way to tell if an app is stealing your photos is to check the permissions that it has been granted. To do this on an Android device, go to Settings > Apps and select the app in question. On an iOS device, go to Settings > Privacy and select the app. Once you have selected the app, you should be able to see a list of all the permissions that it has been granted.
- If you see that the app has been granted permission to access your device's camera and/or photo gallery, then it is possible that it could be stealing your photos. Of course, just because an app has been granted permission to access your camera and/or photo gallery doesn't necessarily mean that it is stealing your photos.
However, it is something to be aware of, and it's always best to err on the side of caution. If you suspect that an app is stealing your photos, the best thing to do is to delete it from your device and then change all of your passwords (for any accounts that may have been linked to the app).
You should also report the app to the relevant app store so that they can take appropriate action.
Here are the indicators that apps might be stealing your photos or taking pictures/videos through your camera:
- The app asks for permissions that seem unnecessary for its stated purpose. For example, a photo editor app should not need access to your device's camera.
- The app is not available on the official app store for your device (e.g., Google Play or the App Store).
- The app has a large number of negative reviews and/or low ratings.
- The app is not made by a well-known and reputable company.
If you suspect that an app may be stealing your photos, the best course of action is to delete it from your device and avoid downloading any apps from unknown or untrustworthy sources in the future.
What are some tips for keeping your photos safe and secure online?
In addition to being careful about which apps you install, there are a few other things you can do to protect your photos from being stolen:
- Set a passcode or fingerprint lock on your device to prevent unauthorized access.
- Back up your photos regularly to a cloud storage service or external hard drive. This way, if your device is lost or stolen, you will still have a copy of your photos.
- Use a photo-security app that encrypts your photos and requires a password to view them.
By following these simple tips, you can help keep your photos safe and secure online.
What are some of the most popular photo-stealing apps and how do they work?
As mentioned above, there have been a number of reports in recent years about photo-stealing apps that are available for download on popular app stores. While the exact number of these apps is unknown, they typically masquerade as legitimate applications, such as games or photo editors. Once installed, the app will secretly access your device's camera and/or photo gallery and send the images to a remote server. In some cases, the app will also include a watermark or logo on the images in an attempt to make it more difficult for you to spot that your photos have been stolen.
Here are the apps that are believed to be malicious:
Art Effects for Photo
Art Filter Photo
Art Filter Photo Effects
Artistic effect Filter
Awesome Cartoon Art
Cartoon Art Photo
Cartoon Art Photo
Fill Art Photo Editor
Horizon Beauty Camera
Magic Art Filter Photo Editor
Pro Camera Beauty
Selfie Camera Pro
If you have any of these apps installed on your device, we recommend that you delete them immediately.
How to back up your photos to secure them from being stolen or lost if something happens to your device?
One of the best ways to protect your photos from being stolen or lost is to upload them to a cloud instead of having them on your device. This way the provider of the cloud is adding another layer of security that can't be bypassed by apps that have access to your gallery and/or camera. Additionally, if you ever lose your device or it's stolen, you'll still have access to all of your photos as long as you can log into the cloud service.
Obviously, you need a cloud provider you can trust with your most personal data. Do some research and decide what is the best solution for you.
I personally use Infomaniak's kDrive as it is quite cheap compared to most other solutions and the data is stored in Switzerland, a country with some of the world's highest privacy protection laws worldwide. They offer a free plan and several paid ones. Currently, there is even a trial phase for the premium version (30 days free)
But there are many different cloud services available, but some of the most popular ones include:
– iCloud: iCloud is a cloud storage and backup service provided by Apple. It is available for free to all iPhone and iPad users.
- Google Drive: Google Drive is a cloud storage service provided by Google. It is available for free to all Android users.
- Dropbox: Dropbox is a cloud storage service that offers both free and paid plans.
- OneDrive: OneDrive is a cloud storage service provided by Microsoft. It is available for free to all Windows users.
Once you have selected a cloud storage service, you can simply upload your photos to the cloud and then access them from any internet-connected device. We recommend backing up your photos on a regular basis to ensure that they are always safe and secure.
Note: the photos won't be protected if you still keep them in your phone's gallery. You would need to choose in the settings to remove the images and videos from your device after uploading them.
What are other ways to protect your privacy, beyond using photo-security apps?
There are a number of other ways you can protect your privacy, beyond using photo-security apps. For example:
- Install a security app: A security app can help to protect your device from malware and viruses. We recommend installing an antivirus app such as Avast or AVG.
- Enable two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security that requires you to enter a second code in addition to your password when logging into an account. This makes it much harder for someone to hack into your account.
- Use a secure browser: A secure browser such as Brave or DuckDuckGo can help to protect your privacy by blocking trackers and ads.
- Be careful what you install: Only install apps from trusted sources such as the App Store or Google Play store. Be sure to read the reviews and permissions before installing an app.
- Keep your software up to date: Keep your operating system and all of your apps up to date. This helps to ensure that you have the latest security features and patches.
- Use a VPN: A VPN (Virtual Private Network) can help to encrypt your internet traffic and protect your privacy. We recommend using a reputable VPN service such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
By following these tips, you can stay as safe and secure as possible when being online.