While its foundation – Linux – is a highly secured platform, the same cannot be said about one of the most popular mobile OS worldwide, Android. In case you preferred to skip the news bulletins during your summer vacation, Android has become a key mobile target for cybercriminals over the past few months. Moreover, despite Google’s constant reassurance, several mobile security services have revealed the vulnerability of the Android OS and the shocking news that almost 9 million devices have been infected with malware apps in the last year.
Even though Google has reacted promptly and eliminated all potential threats from Google Play, in the end it turns out that Android users are doing it to themselves, especially since the OS makes the installing process a no-brainer. If you want to download and install Android apps safely and avoid becoming yet another victim of cybercrime, here are some simple rules to follow.
- Stay away from third-party Android stores
Considering that almost all Android devices come with a direct link to Google Store, frankly it makes no sense to search for and download application for third-party sources. Granted, if your provider or device manufacturer has an app store – as Samsung does for instance – it is usually safe to download from there. But keep in mind that it is overall a lot safer to get your apps from Google Store.
- Make sure the app asks only for the necessary permissions
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/hendry/3616643414/” title=”webvm win32 permission dialog by Kai Hendry, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3321/3616643414_aab99bdbb9.jpg” width=”404″ height=”422″ alt=”webvm win32 permission dialog”></a>
Just because you are downloading from the trusted Google Store, than does not automatically mean it is completely safe and that you should not read the permissions of each app. Before you install an app on your device, check out its rating, the number of reviews and the permissions it requires. In case you are not sure why a certain permission is necessary, then find out what the developer has to say about it. If you find nothing about this topic, then it is best to search for an alternative app.
- Remember to upgrade to the latest Android version
If you want to avoid waking up with a hefty phone bill by the end of the month, then consider upgrading the OS to the latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. In the eventuality you did not know, Android 4.2 has been designed to notify users about attempts from unauthorized apps to send premium SMS to testing services. Rest assured, this is just a notification and it is up to you to block it or allow it, in case you are using these services.
- Do not download five-star apps with no reviews
If you come across a five-star app that does not have any reviews, then stay away from it. More often than not, these are malicious apps built to ask users for ratings before they even get to try them out. Obviously, none of them work.
- Be wary of apps that suddenly become free
While it is true that there are numerous apps with Lite versions on Google Play, it is advisable to verify the full version first and find out if it is free of not. In general, these types of apps contain keyloggers that record your typing and eventually steal your passwords and other private data.
- Never cache your passwords
Without denying the fact that caching passwords comes in handy most of the times, it is important to note that it also simplifies the job of anyone who attempts to steal your smartphone. To put it simply, by caching your passwords, you are practically laying out a big invite sign for identity thieves. On a side note, if you hate typing in your passwords each time you log into your account, at least consider a two-factor authentication option.
- Be extra cautious with the SuperUser privileges
In the eventuality that you took the sensitive decision to root your Android device, then it is imperative to install a tool that allows you to monitor the apps that you granted root access to and that are actually using these privileges. Granting SuperUser privileges to a malicious app is dangerous, especially since the application can now do anything to your phone, while you watch helplessly. As a rule of thumb, the SuperUser privileges should only be awarded to apps you downloaded from trusted sources and that you are thoroughly familiar with.