Despite ongoing review and efforts to keep fake apps out of popular app stores, fraudulent apps still pop up and it’s up to users to keep a watchful eye. Apps remain the most common way your phone and data stored in it can be compromised, so it is important to be discerning and responsible with the apps you choose to download.
Why fake an app? There are a variety of motives. Some apps are simply knock-offs of hit apps or games that are trying to compete for downloads with the popular apps. Other apps appear to be from a popular brand, but there purpose is to simply serve ads (which is usually apparent upon opening the ad). Unfortunately, there other fake apps with malicious intent to infect your device, convince you to enter your credit card number or attempt to steal your personal information.
While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding malicious apps, here are some tips to help keep your device and personal information safe.
- Be leery of paid apps being available for free from an outside website — App developers do occasionally discount the price of their app, but usually do so within the official app store. A free app offer on an outside website should be a red flag that the app is not legitimate and is probably malicious in nature.
- Check the downloads and reviews — Use the additional feedback given by fellow consumers to see if an application is living up to the developer’s intentions. An app with a lot of downloads, high ratings and positive reviews will usually indicate an app is meeting expectations. An app with fewer downloads, low ratings and complaints can signal a questionable app.
- Review permissions — Be aware of what parts of the phone you are giving the application access to and make sure you are comfortable with granting the access. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t download it. Your smartphone contains a lot of sensitive information; it’s important to be proactive and protect that information.
Watch for other red flags, as well, including misspellings or bad grammar in the app description, multiple apps appearing to be from the same brand with different developers or apps featuring deals that are too good to be true. App stores continue to work to weed out the bad apples, but taking a second look remains an important step to protect your smartphone and ultimately your personal information.