Third-party keyboards are one of the most common ways to customize an Android device. However, they can also pose a threat to security and privacy.
Your Android keyboard is a vital component of your smartphone’s functionality. It is one of the most utilized tools. Whether you’re browsing, messaging, or generating documents on your smartphone, the keyboard plays a crucial role.
For a frequently-used function, it is usual for Android users to attempt to personalize it to their liking. However, Android’s default keyboard lacks the best customization possibilities. Therefore, Android users opt for third-party keyboards with the necessary features. However, is this safe at all?
Third-Party Keyboards Offer Limitless Personalization
Earlier versions of Android include a keyboard that is quite unremarkable. Google’s Android keyboard, Gboard, is included in more current versions, although even Gboard falls short of many users’ aesthetic and functional expectations. There are keyboards on the Play Store that can dramatically modify your typing experience. Some of them can effectively correct your grammar and forecast your next phrases. Some provide you complete control over the appearance and feel of your keyboard, allowing you to change the colors and layout of the keys.
Customization is an asset for third-party keyboards. This is the primary reason for their popularity among Android users.
Unfortunately, the attraction of limitless customization sometimes comes with a hefty price tag. At first glance, a keyboard app does not appear to be a cause for concern. Isn’t it just a keyboard app? It’s not a social media or photo gallery app that could be listening in on your private discussions or stealing your photos. Android keyboards may appear harmless, but they represent a significant risk to your personal data, often much more than the much-maligned chat applications.
How can third-party Android keyboards present a security risk?
It would be suspicious if a PDF reader app requested access to your microphone or contacts. It could be detected on the Play Store, or people could feel hesitant to download it.
However, the situation changes when keyboard apps are considered. Numerous third-party keyboard apps often request a lengthy range of permissions. They could request access to your camera, microphone, contacts, storage, and network connections.
The majority of these permissions are provided because these applications legitimately require them to function effectively.
However, you may be taking greater risks than you think. When you allow the requested access to the popular Go Keyboard, for instance, the app can read your contacts, capture photos, and videos, read the contents of your phone’s storage, record audio using your microphone, and transmit data over the internet. It is not difficult to see what may go wrong with such detailed data access.
Not just Go Keyboard, but also Kika Keyboard, Emoji Keyboard, and the vast majority of other popular keyboard apps have access to Android smartphones. Unfortunately, some software developers occasionally abuse these rights.
A 2017 audit by the security firm AdGuard revealed that Go Keyboard harvested the personal information of millions of users. The program allegedly transferred the collected data to distant servers before sharing it with third parties.
Due to the wide breadth of the app’s permissions, it was also able to download executable code that was subsequently distributed as adware on target devices. Shortly after this information was published, the app was updated and the violations were eliminated.
This is not a singular occurrence. In 2019, another security research group, Upstream, reported that an Android keyboard named “ai.type” was not only stealing user data but also leveraging their banking credentials to make unlawful digital purchases. The application was withdrawn from Google Play. How did it obtain the banking details of its customers?
The Very Best Trojan Horse
Everything you type on the keyboard of your Android smartphone. This means that the Android keyboard has access to your passwords, confidential emails, documents, and SMS messages. Even your credit card information is visible.
When you combine the wide rights granted to Android keyboards with the fact that you furnish it with a wealth of private information just by typing, you have the perfect Trojan horse. It just sits there and appears innocuous, but it could be the most hazardous app on your phone.
Third-Party Android Keyboards You Can Rely On
The Android keyboard is not as simplistic as the majority of Android users believe. It is one of the most potent Android keyboard apps available if you know your way around it.
If you, like millions of others, have decided that Google’s Gboard is not for you, you should be extremely selective about whose alternatives you trust. Here are some choices that are usually regarded as secure:
With over a billion downloads on the Play Store, a big community of Android users trusts Microsoft’s SwiftKey. It includes a variety of personalization choices, such as attractive themes, animated GIFs, and emoticons, as well as outstanding predictive text tools.
SwiftKey is available for download at your favorite App Store
If you frequently make typing errors or produce numerous formal documents that must be grammatically correct, this is the keyboard for you. No, you will not have access to gorgeous themes and an unending supply of GIFs, as is the case with other keyboards; as the name suggests, Grammarly focuses on your grammar.
Grammarly can be downloaded at your favorite store (Free, subscription available)
It is difficult to find trusted third-party Android keyboards. However, certain open-source approaches could give a semblance of data security if they are publically maintained and reviewed.
They may not be the most customizable, but knowing that independent developers are monitoring how these apps handle your data can let you sleep easier. Here are some open-source keyboards for Android that you may test out.
You Can Always Stick With Your Android’s Default Keyboard
Smartphone manufacturers may pre-install keyboard applications that are regarded as generally secure. On most Android devices, however, Google’s Gboard is the default keyboard application. If it is not already installed on your device, you should consider installing it.
Even Google will use your information to some extent. However, you will receive some clarity regarding the data it uses and why. In addition, you can be certain that your keyboard is not being utilized to steal your credit card information.