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Majority of first responder apps had security flaws, says DHS

In a pilot program from the Department of Homeland Security, researchers find that 32 out of 33 apps for first responders have security and privacy problems.

The DHS looked at 33 first responder apps, 32 of which had security concerns.

James Martin/CNET

Several life-saving apps received much needed security updates after government agencies pointed out potential issues.

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate said on Monday they've helped secure popular first responder apps, after finding security flaws in almost every single one they looked at.

"The pilot-testing project discovered potential security and privacy concerns -- such as access to the device camera, contacts or Short Message Service messages -- in 32 of 33 popular apps that were tested," the DHS said in a statement.

About 18 of those apps had "critical flaws," including credentials that couldn't be changed and vulnerabilities to attacks over Wi-Fi. The researchers looked at 33 first responder apps available for both iOS and Android, created by 20 developers.

First responders often rely on apps in emergencies to share important information and help save lives. Recognizing its importance, the DHS said it was crucial that these apps be safe from cyberattacks and vulnerabilities.

Homeland Security collaborated on its "Securing Mobile Applications for First Responders" report and pilot program with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials and Kryptowire, a mobile security company.

After researchers revealed the vulnerabilities, about 10 developers have since fixed the issues, the DHS said. So far, only 14 of the 32 flawed apps have been addressed. 

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