How To Check If An Android App Is Safe

Android is the most widely used operating system. A couple of months back, it surpassed Windows as the operating system used to access the web. There are tons of mobile devices out there. This also makes Android the target for malware attacks. So how can you avoid becoming a victim? Here are a few ways to check if your app is legit or not.

Can you get viruses on your phone?

Short answer – Yes.

Long answer – Android being such an open and customizable OS is also vulnerable to all sorts of attacks. Android to mobile devices to same as Windows is to PCs. With al lot of people using it and being so customizable in nature, it is obvious that the platform will be prone to a bunch of bugs and vulnerabilities.

Being open source and Linux based, Android begs to be hacked. This is good in certain ways, but it also enables cybercriminals to attack devices, steal data or cause massive damage.

Virus versus Malware

Virus and Malware are often used interchangeably. But the terms have some intrinsic difference. A computer virus generally causes damage to the system. Malware includes all sorts of malicious software that can cause issues on your device. Viruses are a form of malware. Malware is categorized based on how they operate and what sort of damages they cause. By that definition, you cannot get viruses on your Android device, but you can get another form of malware that is equally or even more harmful.

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You’ve probably heard the terms adware, spyware, ransomware and Trojans. All these are other forms of malware. These can cause a lot of damage to your phone, steal personal data and what not.

Consider the money-stealing malware “ExpensiveWall”, which was downloaded between one million and 4.2 million times this year. Without any indication, ExpensiveWall charged victims’ accounts for fake services like premium SMS messages. Or the infamous Faketoken Trojan that steals your credit card information by impersonating the interfaces of taxi-booking apps.

So, what do mobile malware do?

Mobile malware does not wreak havoc on your phone. They generally cause a whole lot of annoyance while stealing personal information in the background. Personal information includes contacts, texts, passwords saved in browsers and even photos in your gallery. Here are some of the things that mobile malware mainly does.
• Stealing your contacts and sensitive photos
• Following your every move with a location tracker
• Reading your private text messages
• Saving your passwords after you type them in
• Jacking up your phone bill with tons of SMS messages to premium numbers
• Going on shopping sprees with your bank account
With cryptocurrency mining being a lucrative option to make money and Android devices becoming more and more powerful each day, some Android malware may secretly use your phone to mine cryptocurrency, such as bitcoins and send them to the attacker. So mobile malware is no joke. Given how important phones are in our lives these days, it is essential to keep your phone safe.

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Keeping your phone malware free

There are three essential steps to prevent malware on Android.
1. Avoid shady apps stores
2. Look out for fake apps and scams
3. Check permissions
Even though most Android phones come with Google Play as the default app store, you can also install apps from other third-party sources. Not all third-party stores are bad. In another post, we listed some of the third-party stores that you can check out for getting apps. However, the risk of getting malware increases when you are downloading apps from not-so-popular third-party stores.
This does not mean the Google Play Store is safe. A lot of malware often creep into Google Play Store undetected and can stay under the radar for a long time. Google Play Store itself is home to a lot of fake apps and scams. So, third-party stores will have more such malware anyways.
Knowledge is power. Spotting fake apps can be easy if you know where to look. Find out who the developer is and how many times the app has been downloaded. This is way more trustworthy than the paid reviews that you will get up front. Also, check the publisher date, read the app description. Also, if you are getting a paid app for free for no reason, then chances are it can be malware. If you find a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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App permissions basically allow you to control how much of your phone can the app access. For example, a camera app will not need access to your contacts. Instagram obviously needs permission to access your photos, but Candy Crush shouldn’t be asking to read your sensitive log data. Installed something a while back and don’t know if it’s safe? If you’re running Android 6.0 or above, you can find and even revoke specific permissions for different apps (though be mindful that this might break app).

Scan your phone

Finally, getting a second opinion is always better and relying on your own wits all the time. Apps like Malwarebytes, AVG, Avast or Bitdefender Free can be used to scan your phone after you install a new app. Malwarebytes even scans app packages before installation to make sure they are not infected.
Following these steps are generally good enough to keep malware away from your phone. If we missed something, then let us know in the comments what else you do to keep your phone malware free.

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