Cops, Courts and Fire Schools

New App Poses Security Risks To High School Students, Bucks County Sheriff Warns

The Bucks County sheriff warns of security threats posed by the popular teen-targeted app.

File photo.

A new phone app, Saturn, is rapidly gaining popularity among high schoolers, and the Bucks County Sheriff has raised concerns over potential security weaknesses.

Marketed with the slogan “High School Runs on Saturn,” the app is targeted at high school students aged 14 to 18. It’s designed for sharing schedules and connecting with friends.

Despite its claims of being a hub for teenagers, the app lacks standard privacy settings and any significant safeguards, according to Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran.

Though the app promotes itself as the solution to balancing social and academic life in high school, the lack of strict security measures may pose severe threats to students’ safety. One feature allows students to scan personal photos and class schedules to create a school calendar using optical character recognition.

The app, which has risen to become one of the top 15 on the iPhone’s App Store, does not require identity verification to set up an account, the sheriff’s office warned.

According to the sheriff’s office, the app’s claim of being a “safe and secure online space for students” contradicts the fact that anyone can join Saturn, view user data, and potentially misuse the information.

Some parents have demonstrated this loophole by creating false accounts to delve into the platform. To join, one only needs to provide a phone number, a general location, and select a local high school. Users can even opt out of providing a location, making the profile virtually anonymous.

Saturn also asserts that the platform is safeguarded by allowing only verified students access, ensuring only fellow classmates can view class schedules, and requiring school email addresses for confirmation. However, these claims appear to be misleading, the sheriff’s office said.

Harran pointed out the potential exploitation risks. He noted that with just a few clicks, anyone can access personal details associated with a specific high school. The data includes names, photos, class schedules, private messaging, and even links to other social media accounts like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Venmo. Such easily available information could serve nefarious purposes like cyberbullying, identity theft, impersonation, and scamming.

Harran cautions students and parents to be wary of Saturn, emphasizing that it paints a false picture of safety while failing to highlight its inherent risks and potential for misuse.

9to5Mac reported last week that Saturn has begun to update some of the weaknesses in the app.

About the author

Alex Irving

Alex Irving is a freelance journalist based in Bucks County. They have been reporting on local news since 2022.

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