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What is End-to-End Encryption and is it Important?

Melissa Gaffney | February 15, 2023

Melissa Gaffney

February 15, 2023

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is an important feature for mobile applications, especially when it comes to security and data privacy. E2EE ensures that the data sent between two points cannot be intercepted and read by a third-party. This type of security is essential for online applications as users need to trust that their private conversations, photos, personal information etc. are safe and secure within the app and mobile phone and that only the intended recipient can view them.

Not having data encrypted in your mobile apps can have several negative effects. First and foremost, it leaves users vulnerable to data breaches, malware attacks, and other malicious attempts at accessing their information. Without encryption, users’ data can fall into the wrong hands and any third-party who has access to the same system as the user can potentially view or steal their personal information without their knowledge or permission.

How Do I Know if My Mobile Application’s Data is Encrypted and What Should I Do If It’s Not?

Often apps are built without encrypting some or all of the data they store or read on the device. This creates a serious risk for the user because the data can be taken off the device in any number of ways, including malware, zero day attacks, device theft, or accidental loss.

The best way to know if your mobile application’s data is encrypted is to scan your device with a tool like Q-Scout. Quokka’s intelligent and proactive security solution, Q-Scout, safeguards you, your company and all of your employees, with personal privacy at its core. When Q-Scout identifies an app that is reading or writing data without encryption, the tool will inform you. The decision whether to continue to use the app, remove it or limit its access is in your hands. Here is some advice on how to make that decision:

  • Does the app have access to sensitive data that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands? A finance app or a healthcare app which has an offline mode is definitely something to be wary of. However, a paint-by-numbers app that doesn’t ask you personal questions or login information is probably fine.
  • What permissions does the app request? If the app has access to your location, your microphone, or your camera, it can easily have very sensitive data. Find out if you can remove those app permissions. Q-Scout will show you which apps are using your sensors – also note that these change all the time. When you install or upgrade an app it may request new permissions. Sometimes using an app in a certain way will cause it to request more permissions – for example a parking app introduces a new feature to take a picture of where you parked and will ask for camera permissions when you try to use the feature. We all have plenty of apps, so it’s very easy to agree and enable a permission then forget all about it. Q-Scout makes it easy to review all permissions – and it will highlight which apps are particularly risky.

Who is in Charge of Encrypting your Data?

In most cases, the responsibility for encrypting user data lies with the application developer or service provider. It is their job to ensure that their systems are secure and compliant with applicable laws and regulations regarding data protection. This means they must have measures in place to prevent users’ identities and/or financial information from being stolen or misused, as well as any additional safeguards such as two-factor authentication setup options available for users if required.

Why Don’t All Developers Encrypt User Data?

If data encryption is so important for users, why wouldn’t all application developers encrypt data? The answer may be simple and selfish. Not all application developers encrypt user data because of the high costs and complexities associated with encryption. Encryption can be a complicated process to implement and maintain, especially for smaller applications or businesses. Therefore, some developers may choose not to use encryption for financial reasons or out of lack of expertise in this area. Additionally, depending on the type of app and the regulations applicable in certain jurisdictions, there may not be a legal requirement to encrypt users’ data. This could also lead developers to decide against using encryption as part of their security measures.

Can I Encrypt My Own Data?

Users can encrypt their own data on a mobile application by downloading and installing an encryption tool. Popular tools like BitLocker, VeraCrypt, and AxCrypt can help users protect their stored data by encrypting it with a password or key of the user’s choice. Additionally, users can also make use of third-party applications that provide end-to-end encryption services to secure their communication when they are using the mobile app. Finally, applying security software such as firewalls and antivirus programs helps keep any malicious code from infiltrating user devices.

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