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Six Tips for Choosing Safe Mobile Applications

February 19, 2018

​Whatever your interests and needs, you can bet someone has invented an app for that. Mobile applications help us stay informed, organized, healthy, and entertained. However, there are also dangerous apps that let criminals help themselves to your identity and resources. Mobile malware is typically hidden inside tempting tools, games, and content. Here are six tips on how to enjoy mobile apps without downloading the bad stuff.

  1. Download from trusted sources and not third-party app stores. While downloading from the Apple app store or Google Play isn’t a guarantee that software is safe, it’s a good start. Apple has a more rigorous vetting process for apps and content in its stores, so the majority of malware targets Android devices. However, hackers are now finding ways to slip through, and iOS malware is on the rise.

  2. Look at the app publisher, the number of downloads, and be skeptical about reviews. An app from a company that has a lot of popular apps with thousands of reviews and downloads is more likely to be legitimate. An app from a supplier you’ve never heard of, with just a few downloads, is more suspect. And a hacker could easily go in under different names and post a few fake positive reviews.

  3. Remember that free isn’t always a good price. Apps with embedded malware, especially games, are often offered for free to make them more enticing. Even if the app itself doesn’t contain malware, free versions often require you to view advertising, and some of that could be phishing that directs you to bogus websites.

  4. Never let a child download apps without supervision. Kids as young as toddlers are often surprisingly skilled about downloading software - but they are also and predictably unwary and unaware of the trouble these apps can cause. Also educate any teenagers in your family about how to download safely because they are particularly drawn to games and freeware. Not only could they compromise their own devices, they could also download malware that affects your home network.

  5. Don’t install any apps that the operating system warns you are insecure. (On Apple devices, this involves a process called “jailbreaking” to override the OS’s security settings. On Android devices, you can protect yourself by disabling installation of apps from unknown sources in the privacy settings.)

  6. Never, ever, ever download pirated content. It’s the easiest thing in the world for hackers to embed malware in stolen copies of the latest hit movie or album. As we like to say, “If you do business with pirates, prepare to be boarded.”

If you follow these rules, you will minimize your chances of downloading mobile malware. However, malware can be embedded even in otherwise legit applications, so be sure to keep additional lines of defense by getting security software for your device, turning on encryption, and promptly installing new security updates for the operating system.

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