Free apps help smartphone users hide information

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Some free apps may look like generic folders or calculators, but they are actually used to hide all kinds of sensitive information. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
Some free apps may look like generic folders or calculators, but they are actually used to hide all kinds of sensitive information.

In the hands of adults, the apps are an extra layer of smartphone security, but children may use these so-called 'trap door' apps to keep secrets.

"It can be concerning for parents of elementary school kids and middle schoolers, how much they are hiding," says Aubrey Smith.

Even daily inspections won't uncover the secrets kept thanks to these hidden apps.

"If you don't want anyone in your business, you can just hide it," one student says. "I'm a sneaky person."

In just a few searches, the I-Team found apps disguised as calculators, or other tools that look standard. A passcode opens a whole new gateway to secret pictures, videos and contact lists.

"They might be looking at porn sites or whatever, you just never know," says Lisa Marie Penn.

And there are apps that say they can hide other apps, plus there are some that use fingerprints and extra passcodes to lock apps, meaning you can't access the apps you know about even if you know the phone's passcode.

"Sometimes we don't even know what to look for and hidden apps are an example of what we should be looking for," says State Senator Laura Murphy.

Sen. Murphy and the Attorney General's office trying to raise awareness of the issue through Northwest Suburban Community Internet Safety Workshops.

"So you would have to look past that calculator and see all of the photos," says Sen. Murphy.

If you want to outsmart a tech savvy child, do a quick search in the app store and review purchases and downloads. Also make sure your kids know the dangers of using dating apps and anonymous messaging apps.

"There are child predators who know about these apps, and try to engage with your child, take them offline and say hey, download this app, we can communicate that way, no one ever has to know," says Rania Mankarious, an online safety expert.

In some cases you don't even need an app to hide information. The I-Team found several video instructions showing you how you can quickly make apps on your iPhone temporarily disappear.

For more information on internet safety, visit these sites:
http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/children/internet.html
http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents
http://www.chicagocac.org/resources/internet-safety/
http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/cyberbullying/

Related Topics:
technologyI-Teamappsinternetsafetysmartphonesconsumer
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