The ‘vault apps’, the latest fashion among children and adolescents to bypass parental controls

1 Apr. (Portaltic/EP) –

More and more technology companies, mainly those focused on communication and social networks, are developing their own parental control tools to offer greater protection to users who are less aware of their activities on the Internet, that is, children and adolescents, who manage to have some privacy and avoid this control with the so-called vault applications or ‘vault apps’.

Platforms like Instagram or TikTok They already have measures to prevent minors from having access to harmful or inappropriate content and that these offer them publications according to their age. Snapchat, For example, it even has a parental control system that allows parents to see who their children are talking to, called Family Center.

Despite the existence of these features, which record the interactions of children and adolescents, some parents and guardians prefer to directly check the phones of minors and find out what applications they have downloaded and use on a daily basis.

Until now, this traditional form of control was effective, since at a single glance they could know what services their children were familiar with. However, some of these have already tested and use daily the so-called vault applications.

Also Known As ‘vault apps’ -which means something like safe or armored applications-, receive this name because they are designed to hide and secure files, data, messages and calls. they do with authentication methods such as codes, passwords or biometric data such as fingerprint.

They also use fake utilities as lures to avoid attracting attention. This is how they can look like a calculator, for example, with numeric keys and signs, although in reality they give access to all the files they hide once a secret key is entered.

” They work by fragmenting files. To hide a photo, the ‘app’ creates different parts of it. Each separate file contains significant information about the image, but separately it doesn’t make sense,” explains Panda Security’s Global Consumer Operations Manager, Hervé Lambert.

Lambert points out that “by looking only at the name of the file, no one could know what it contains”, because “it uses a nomenclature that is more like a random sequence of characters”, which makes it even more difficult to detect.


Locating ‘vault apps’ also depends on their nature, since there are some “that they just blend in” while others can only be detected using forensic analysis tools or by analyzing the activity logs of the device, which is only possible with more specific and expensive solutions, reveals the director of Research and Awareness at Eset Españ, Josep Albors.

These applications are also easy to use and maintain, which may encourage young people to install them on all their devices. “Some of them sync so that the files it contains can be seen on the mobile or on the Chromebook,” says Lambert, who clarifies that he also some of them incorporate browsersso inappropriate content can be accessed from them without the need to activate incognito tabs or make use of other browsing modalities that hide search history.

Despite its current popularity, vault apps are not newbut its origin goes back more than a decade ago. “Until now they were not known because they were given another use and it was not available to the entire spectrum of users. The current one is more youthful, who uses it to hide his secrets and other personal issues,” adds Kaspersky cybersecurity analyst Marc Rivero.

Lambert situates its peak around 2012, with the popularization of Snapchat, which was characterized by the fact that the contents disappeared after the user had seen them. “These ‘apps’ allowed users to save and hide sexting chats otherwise they would have disappeared,” he says.

This practice consists of sending photos or videos of sexual content voluntarily, so that these applications can become “a tool very useful for sexual predators to hide the materialwhich they get from their victims on their phones,” according to Lambert.

It was already in 2015 when its use to hide photographs was noticed, as Albors recalls, who says that “its use has become more common in recent years, as security concerns have increased of personal data and privacy”.


Cybersecurity experts agree that despite being misused, these apps are legal and for this reason they are kept in official app stores like Play Store and App Store, as long as they comply with their regulations

“The use of these services is not something that has to be regulated. It is an application that contains a way to secure content. In fact, there are telephone brands that include applications that are part of that functionalitylike Samsung Knox with the secure enclave”, indicates Navarro, who stresses that “everything depends on the use that is given to them”.

Hence, it is relevant to make both minors and their parents and guardians aware of the dangers that they can entail if they are used for purposes of this type. “There is still a long way to go when it comes to disclosing cybersecurity risks,” says Lambert.

He also insists on the need for a State pact for cybersecurity in which both public and private organizations collaborate “hand in hand to minimize the scourge of cybercrime”.

Albors, for his part, considers that the problem lies in “the lack of interest that many parents have about ‘online’ habits and the use of devices by their children”, for which a solid digital education is needed and “open communication” between children and adults.

“The serious lack of trust between minors and their parents means that they do not go to their parents when they are faced with a serious ‘online’ problem,” he says, advocating “two-way communication and never from imposition and punishment”.

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Written by Editor TLN

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