Nowadays, there is an app for virtually anything. From transportation apps that help us get from one place to another, to accessibility apps that connect the visually impaired with volunteers who would willingly serve as their eyes, the kinds of apps you can now download are limitless. As of the latest counting, there are more than 111,000 Android mobile apps that are being released on Google Play on a monthly basis, creating a massive selection that could overwhelm anyone.
The sheer amount of apps available out there can understandably make it difficult to figure out which ones aren’t just functional, but secure as well. After all, the simple act of downloading the wrong applications from suspicious and deceitful sites and platforms can instantly corrupt one?s device and jeopardize a person?s sensitive data by installing spyware or malware. Given this reality, here are a few things to check when downloading an app, especially if you’re not going through official channels:
Developer?s business registration
Just like any other business, app developers also need to be duly registered with the appropriate authorities. After all, this is an integral part of starting an app business, along with securing a team and the necessary equipment. While it is possible for individual developers (those who work on their own, with no team or investors) to have their apps available on established platforms like Google Play and Apple?s App Store, official organizations that have business licenses are considered to be far more credible. As a consumer, you would, of course, want to get apps from organizations that are legally recognized and have a reputable name to boot.
Whether you are downloading an app for just your phone or for all of your other connected devices, it is of the utmost importance that you take the time to examine the credibility of the platform you are downloading the app from. The reason for this is that credible sources like Google Play and Apple?s App Store often have strict guidelines and are far more meticulous about the apps that are featured on their platform. If you are downloading an app from a website, make it a habit to at least visit the ?About? or ?Contact Us? pages. The information you?d find there, like their phone number or physical address, are some of the signs that they can be trusted. If a business you’re trying to download an app from doesn’t have a physical address or phone number listed, you’d best be wary, as you’ll have no way of reaching them should something untoward happen to your device after downloading their app.
Read reviews and check star ratings
According to a malware researcher from ESET, Lukas Stefanko, there are a lot of things you can learn about an app by simply going through the reviews. More often than not, there are a lot of people out there that are kind enough to leave warnings and tell users to steer clear of suspicious apps in the reviews section. As a user, you would want an app that has a high rating. However, it is important to note that apps with suspiciously high-ratings (those with only 5-star reviews and not so many commentaries to complement them) are just as suspicious as those with no ratings or reviews. After all, some unscrupulous app developers can go as far as paying others to leave false reviews and ratings.
Read through the permissions
As tempting as it may be to just skip reading through the permissions section and simply approve everything, you should never give in to it. The reason for this is that some of the apps you wouldn?t want on your phone would ask for more permission than they need to operate. Always ask yourself whether it makes sense for your desired app to ask for certain permissions. For example, is it right for a simple idle coin-tossing game to require SMS permission? If things don?t click, consider finding an alternative app. It would also be in your best interest to be particularly wary of apps that ask if they can run in the background, launch other apps or have control over your keyboard, phone and messaging functions.
Article specially written for cybersecurityresource.com
Written by Jen Viviana