zombie hand holding phone

Halloween is just around the corner, so what better time to talk about the scariest of all monsters? Zombies! And zombie apps.

Zombie apps are far more dangerous than the undead threat.

Worse, they move slowly, they can work in packs and if they get their teeth in you, you are done for. A zombie app or account is one that you do not use and may not even remember opening, but it is still lagging along out there in cyberspace with your identifying information. It might be a free trial you signed up for, a subscription service you cancelled but did not delete, a social media platform that is now defunct, a throwaway email you created that one time in order to bid on concert tickets or any other similar scenario. It can also be one of those multiple apps that take up space on your phone but you never use.

Unfortunately, just because you forgot all about it does not mean the zombie is not still sitting there. It is waiting to strike your zombie apps, or more accurately, waiting for the right hacker to bring it back to life and unleash it on humanity.

That is the real problem with zombies. You might have forgotten all about your old MySpace account, but the hackers who broke into MySpace’s servers and stole 360 million logins did not forget. If any of those 360 million account holders reused their username and password on another account—and, statistically, a lot of them did—the hackers now have access to that account, too. The MySpace zombie you forgot about came back, stalked around the internet slowly, then gave up access to your email, Facebook, Amazon or any other account where you reused your credentials.

There is another frightening thing about zombies on zombie apps: they may be slow, but they definitely move. The developer may have sold the zombie app to a company with different security protocols. Maybe the owner discovered a security flaw and issued an update, but since you have not opened it since 2009, you never installed the patch. Perhaps the company suffered a data breach and you never learned about it because you used a throwaway email when you created an account. Any of these scenarios can mean a zombie attack is coming for you.

How are you supposed to save yourself from the countless hordes of zombies out there?

If this was a horror movie, we would have to recommend taking them down and making sure you do not get bitten. Fortunately, the real answer is a lot easier and a lot less messy:

1. If you have apps on your device that you do not use, delete them. First, it will clean up some of your device’s memory and make it run better. Second, it will also be less of a chance that someone can work their way into your device via the zombie app. Don’t worry, you still own the zombie app and the account, it is just not accessible on your device until you reinstall it.

2. If it is an account that you created, either online or when you installed an app, that is a little trickier. You will need to go online to the company’s website and delete or deactivate your account. At the very least, make sure you change the password to something you will never accidentally reuse on another platform. If there is a profile section of your account, change any information that you can, like your email address, home address and phone number. Also, unlink your social media accounts from that account so that a data breach will not give the hackers access to your social media accounts as well.

3. Finally, develop good zombie defense practices to keep these creatures from coming for you in the future. If you are signing up for a new account or downloading an app, make sure it is one you need and plan to use, do not link your social media accounts to it, then make sure the password is completely unguessable and don’t reuse that password anywhere else.

Remember to just protect yourself and any tech users around you from these dangerous attacks.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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