Protect your data from Skype for Android

What you need to know to protect your data from being exposed by the poorly-configured Skype for Android app.

The Skype for Android app puts your sensitive data at risk, possibly exposing it to other apps without your knowledge or consent. Skype is working on a fix, but what should you do in the meantime to protect your data?

Justin Case at the Android Police first uncovered the flaw, and developed an app called Skypwned as a proof of concept to demonstrate how sensitive information such as the Android device owner's full name, phone number, email addresses, contacts, and even Skype chat logs can be accessed without even requiring a username.

The potential data breach is not, however, a result of a flaw or vulnerability per se, but rather poor security configuration by Skype. Randy Abrams, director of technical education for ESET, explains, "Unlike many Android apps that are written to simply take the data, the Skype app exposes data through sloppy programming practices. It is the difference between malice and incompetence."

Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, clarifies, "There are two problems here that point in Skype's direction. First, the files should be better protected with stricter permissions. Second, and more importantly, all the customer/user data should be stored encrypted," adding, "The application is not going out of its way to ex-filtrate your data but it is making it very easy for some other rogue application to do exactly that."

In a Skype Security blog post from Friday, Skype acknowledged the issue. The post states, "We take your privacy very seriously and are working quickly to protect you from this vulnerability, including securing the file permissions on the Skype for Android application."

Skype recommends that users exercise caution in selecting and installing apps on an Android device to avoid installing malicious apps that might take advantage of the holes in Skype to access exposed information. The problem with that guidance, though, is that there is no way for a user to actually tell if an app might be malicious or attempt to access the exposed data because no suspicious or additional permissions would be required of such an app.

So, what are Android users supposed to do to watch out for issues like this and avoid installing any malicious apps? Geoff Webb, product marketing director for Credant Technologies says that due to a lack of transparency for how information is stored by mobile apps, it is difficult to know whether an application is secure, insecure, or actively attacking your Android device. Webb cautions that businesses in particular should be more careful about allowing devices like these to connect to the network and access sensitive data of any kind, stating, "Until these devices are being managed and secured in at least the same way as your corporate laptop or desktop system, the risk to data on them is going to be high."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicsskypeapplicationsappsPhonesAndroidPhone applicationssoftwaredata protection

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?