Have you heard of the terms ‘Ghost apps/Vault apps/Hidden apps’ and wondered what the fuss is all about? Here are a few explosive reasons why you should absolutely be aware of these!

What are Ghost Apps?

Similar to a ‘vault’ or a safe which keeps your valuables secure inside a hidden and locked space, ‘Ghost apps’ or ‘Vault apps’ do the same. To access the valuables in your vault, a secret pass-code or a key is required . It is the same for a ‘Vault apps’ – it requires a password to access the content.

Why do you need to know about them?

Using these ghost apps, teenagers are now able to hide sensitive content (photos, videos, texts) which they do not want anyone else to view or know about.

How do I recognize them?

Most reputed apps such as Twitter, Retrica, Facebook (and even the lesser known apps) invest in ensuring their logos /icons are recognizable and the organizations put in a lot of effort in building the brand recall. In contrast, ‘Vault or Ghost apps’ go to great lengths to ensure they are inconspicuous and absolutely discreet becoming almost invisible in a sea of apps installed on a smartphone, tablet or a computer.

Where are they found?

They are easily available and most are free to download from all play stores – Android, Apple, and Windows. It is not restricted to only smartphones, these ‘Ghost apps’ or ‘Vault apps’ can be also be downloaded on tablets and laptops – all devices which support net connectivity.

A search on the app store threw up dozens of results – Vault-Hide, Gallery Vault, VIP Vault, Calculator Vault, Vaulty, Hide it Pro are some of the Vault apps available on the Google Play store. All of them are rated 4 stars and above – which means that they are used by heaps of people including children! They are free to download and some even offer a paid Pro version with greater security features for better invisibility.

If you haven’t done so already, look it up – search for ‘Ghost apps’, ‘Vault apps’ or ‘Hidden apps’ and you too will be surprised at the number of options available.

Why should I be worried about my child using just another app?

While most teenagers and children love their privacy, why would they need to hide photos or content in a hidden app? These ‘Vault/Ghost apps’ can be used to hide everything – from nude selfies and porn videos to sexting. Away from the prying eyes of parents.

These potentially dangerous apps are concealed under the guise of common apps, like a calculator, a game, a file manager or even an audio manager. Some of these apps allow users to change the cover picture of the app. Or the app does not find a mention in the app list (as it is hidden). Thus, there are several ingenious methods of hiding these apps and sometimes finding these apps can be a challenge!

Usually, duplicate apps indicate the presence of ‘Vault/Ghost apps’. The most common are having two calculators on the phone. A majority of these apps are password protected and a calculator format is ideal for typing in passwords. Enter the password and access a hidden photo gallery or inappropriate text messages.

The updated ‘Vault/Ghost apps’ offer scary additional features – decoy accounts, secret cameras, break-in reports, multiple password options, self-destruct photos, online secure backups and more.

How can you ensure your child’s safety?

As parents, we want to give our children the best and it is in our children’s interest that their activities are monitored. As the popular quote goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’.

Here are some precautionary tips that could help.

  • Do sit with children and discuss sensitive topics which are age-appropriate. Today’s generation will always be technologically smarter than their parents. Using smartphones, tabs, computers and the internet is as easy as ABC for them. It is never too early to discuss the merits and demerits of online privacy and the consequences of making sensitive content available to friends or acquaintances. And reinforce this message frequently.
  • Trust, respect, responsibility are some values that can go a long way in ensuring your children are safe. Make yourself available when they need you, encourage them to confide in you without being judgmental. It is natural for a parent to sermonize to their children but it would help if you can have a calm interactive dialogue and understand their perspective as well.
  • If possible, reach an agreement with your child that permission is required before downloading apps. Set parental controls on the devices and do check phones for duplicate apps. If you spot duplicate calculators for example or suspect the presence of a ghost app, the simplest method is reset the phone/device to default factory settings.

Do keep an eye out for changes in behavior. Things to watch include spending too much time online or an increase in net usage. Internet history/ web browsing history missing (which means it has been deleted), extra insistence on privacy by the child etc.

Not all of us are tech-savvy or even interested in technology, but with our children being more clued into technology, a good understanding of apps, social media platforms etc. is essential.

A quick check for Vault apps

  • Access the app store from the phone, laptop or tab
  • Search for ‘Ghost apps’ or ‘Vault apps’ or ‘Hidden apps’ on the app store. The search will throw up at least two dozen pages (be prepared to spend some time).
  • Browse and select the app. If the app has already been installed on the device, the app will prompt to open or launch the app. (We recommend you try it with an app you have installed to understand how it works).
  • Alternatively, you can check your phone Settings > Apps >. Here you will get all the apps listed and you can spot a section for hidden apps as well. However, some Vault apps do not even show up on the app settings.
  • The best and easiest technique is to simply ‘Restore Factory Settings”. But it will mean that all data that has not been backed up will be lost.

Technology can be a boon or a bane. Teach children to use technology advantageously and with responsibility. If you discover your child has installed a vault app, keep calm. A calm interactive discussion will be more fruitful than an emotional outburst.

Peer pressure, the stress of keeping up is not something only adults deal with, kids are more prone to it. In addition, the growing interest in the opposite sex, hormones and smartphone access and the internet are perfect ingredients for unpleasant surprises – especially for parents!

Featured Image Source: Flickr 

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