Majority of first responder apps may have gaping security flaws


Department of Home Security 2
The Department of Homeland Security carried out the investigation.
Photo: Department of Homeland Security

First responder apps may help save your life, but they’re in drastic need of a security overhaul, a new report the Department of Homeland Security says.

Released this week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate “Securing Mobile Applications for First Responders” report said that discovered glaring security flaws on almost every app that it examined.

Out of 33 popular apps, on both iOS and Android, security flaws were discovered on 32 — close to 97 percent. “The pilot-testing project discovered potential security and privacy concerns — such as access to the device camera, contacts or Short Message Service messages,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

Breaking down the 33 mobile apps, 18 were for iOS, while 15 were for Android. They were made by 20 different developers, and were found in the public responder app marketplace AppComm, as opposed to the Google Play or iOS App Store.

Around 18 of these apps’ “critical flaws” included credentials that couldn’t be changed, or had vulnerabilities to attacks via Wi-Fi. After the researchers revealed the vulnerabilities they had found, half of the developers fixed the issues. So far, 14 out of the 32 flawed apps have had their issues addressed.

Security vulnerabilities certainly aren’t limited to first responder apps. However, the fact that these apps are often used by first responders to share important information in emergency situations means it’s extra important that these be safe from cyberattacks.

You can check out the report in full here.