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Old December 19th, 2012, 10:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Using a firewall in android

A lot of apps do not really need web access and work fine without such access. With many android apps, especially games, browsers, and the like having spyware elements that phone home, how effective is using a firewall to protect one's data? I ask because I am not familiar with the inner workings of android and wonder if apps can bypass firewalls in android. I use Avast Mobile Security which includes a firewall but wonder if - in android - data goes out anyway. Does it? How secure or insecure should I feel? Thanks.

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Old December 19th, 2012, 10:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
how effective is using a firewall to protect one's data?
Nothing is 100% perfect, and that will certainly apply to your Firewall.
It's a moving target. Example recent news item:
http://bostinno.com/2012/12/19/malware-exploit-on-samsung-galaxy-s3-samsung-confirms-galaxy-s3-phones-vulnerable-to-app-based-attacks/
But it's much better than nothing.
Sorry cannot answer better.
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Old December 19th, 2012, 12:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That's pretty much what I thought.

Thank you.
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Old December 19th, 2012, 12:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Just stick to the well known developers and avoid unknown and unpopular games and apps at least before reading the reviews...
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Old December 19th, 2012, 01:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Just stick to the well known developers and avoid unknown and unpopular games and apps at least before reading the reviews...
Wish it was that easy! Even wildly popular games like Angry Birds email home. Well known browsers like Dolphin, Boat Browser, etc. also send info home. Many apps want to sync to their clouds - which I do not do. Etc. etc. That is why I am using a firewall but am not knowledgeable enough about android to know of ways to bypass it.
I think everybody needs to be very careful with what they do on their phones, certainly nothing financial, but in the age of Facebook that advice is falling on deaf ears.
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Old December 19th, 2012, 02:20 PM   #6 (permalink)
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OP, you list Angry Birds as an app that "phones home". Do you have a link uncovering exactly what's getting emailed, or maybe an explanation from Rovio?
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Old December 19th, 2012, 03:21 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by androidnewbie5 View Post
A lot of apps do not really need web access and work fine without such access. With many android apps, especially games, browsers, and the like having spyware elements that phone home, how effective is using a firewall to protect one's data? I ask because I am not familiar with the inner workings of android and wonder if apps can bypass firewalls in android. I use Avast Mobile Security which includes a firewall but wonder if - in android - data goes out anyway. Does it? How secure or insecure should I feel? Thanks.
Be afraid, be very afraid ... it's healthy.

Since data transfers occur using the TCP/IP protocol (Dep't of Rendundancy Dept.), a firewall inspects each and every packet to see if it matches the filtering rules. I'm not familiar with your Avast product, but advanced firewalls like netfilter can be customized to any degree desired by a knowledgeable user.

Let's say your "Married Birds" app needs to store your settings, score and gaming partners in the "cloud", so you grant your app such an "outbound" firewall rule. If the permissions on such a game allow it to collect location, contacts info or anything else, then those also are allowed to be transmitted outbound through the firewall.

There are also "inbound" rules to be considered ... will Google be allowed to "push" updates? Will your web-based cerberusapp.com be allowed to communicate with the phone's cerberus app after the phone gets stolen or misplaced?

Does the firewall app make pre-programmed assumptions about native apps firewall rules?

Such apps as Avast, McAfee et.al. presume little if any knowledge on the part of the user and might present popup dialogs any time such inbound/outbound decisions need to be made. Answering "Allow" may not necessarily function as one expects though, and may not necessarily protect your sensitive data.

So .... be afraid.
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Old December 19th, 2012, 05:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I am familiar with real firewalls and have used them in other OSs. The one in Avast is not a very sophisticated one and I assumed that is the way they are in android. Any suggestions for a real firewall for use on an android phone?

Thanks.
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Old December 19th, 2012, 05:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I use AFwall (which built upon Droidwall).
I'm not sure if it meets your definition of a real firewall or not, but I like it.

The advantages:
1 - very simple interface - set it up to allow or block each application individually.
2- No overhead of a running program or service (it modifies iptables, whatever that means).
3 - Logging capability to identify what was blocked.
4 - Free.

How effective:
Tough to know. Droidwall had a few known vulnerabilities (like a time window during the reboot period when applications were not blocked) that were fixed by AFwall. I don't think any vulnerabilities have been identified for AFwall yet... yet being the operative word.

There is also Pdroid which controls other privacy sensitive features besides internet access. Looks interesting and useful. But the installation procedure is so complicated that I haven't tried it.
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Old December 19th, 2012, 10:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I installed and looked at AFwall. Found it does no more than Avast Mobile Security's firewall. In fact the screens for which apps blacklists and whitelists are almost identical which reassures me to some extent. So will stay with Avast for now because of its other security features: lost phone alarm, distance deletions, etc.

Thanks for the suggestion. I appreciate it.
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