Cell phones, especially Android-based devices, are a popular target for hackers. Millions of users’ smartphones have been infected by malware downloaded from the Google Play Store. Google screens apps before allowing them on the Google Play Store, but thousands of malware applications have been released.
It is important that you take an active role in protecting your device and the private data stored in it. Here are five tips to help you avoid malicious software from the Google Play Store and stay safe.
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- Avoid downloading apps with no updates or very recent release dates – Google tries to remove malicious apps as soon as possible, but that takes time. If you find an app with a very recent release date, you may end up being the first victim. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours before downloading a brand new app. Apps that have many updates are more stable and have passed Google’s screening process multiple times, so these are more likely to be safe.
- Do not allow apps to take control of your phone – When you install any app, you get an “App permissions” window that pops up, notifying you which operations the software is requesting access to. Most apps do not require much more than basic permissions and can be installed without worry. However, if you come across an app that is requesting more permissions than what seems necessary, be sure to think twice about downloading it. It is also important to carefully review anything you have to agree to or accept before proceeding.
- Read some of the app’s user reviews – Usually people just look at star ratings before downloading apps. To stay safe from malware, be sure to read the actual reviews written to see if other users have had problems with the app. There may be many fake reviews written just to make the average star rating go up.
- Make sure that you can contact the developer(s) – Application developers can provide contact information such as a website or an email address. Developers that offer these take responsibility for things that go wrong with their app. People who are uploading malware, however, do not want to be traced and will avoid providing these means of contact.
- Install an anti-malware program on your device – This the last line of defense you have against malware. Use one of the many anti-virus apps available for your Android device to scan downloads and detects malware. A few of the most popular (and free!) are Avast, Norton, and Zoner. These will also help protect you while browsing web pages outside of the Google Play Store.