Your smartphone stores a lot of your personal information, banking details, your SIM card with your contact details, pictures of yours and your loved ones. You, therefore, need to be cautious which app you are installing into your phone.
It is therefore wise to ask, “are apps safe?” Some of these apps can contain malware, put your privacy at risk, waste your resources like the battery, among others.
So how do you judge whether a mobile application is safe to download? Here is a short checklist for you to look through.
Source of the App
The safest course by far to find apps is to download them reputable application markets. Apps can be downloaded from an app store or side-loaded with a direct USB connection, or directly installing an apk.
Downloading from within an app store doesn’t mean you won’t bump into third-party apps. Take your time to get to know your source.
App stores like Google Play Store have a review listing system which displays the top positive and top negative reviews. This is useful for quick decisions although you are not supposed to make quick decisions.
You need to read through the negative reviews in their entirety before downloading it. Why would you download an app, and give it access to your smartphone, if it has one star?
Permissions are your operating system’s way of gatekeeping apps from accessing various portions of your personal information.
Some apps ask for permissions that are logically not one of their requirements. For example, a Calendar will naturally ask for permission to access your calendar data. Be keen when a calendar is asking for permission to modify and delete SD card content.
Be sure to check an application’s permissions requirements before you download them on their Google Play Store listing.
This info can be found by:
- Tapping the “Read more” link beneath the app’s description.
- Scrolling down to “App permissions”.
- Tap “See more”.
Google Play Protect
This is normally enabled by default. It is Android’s own version of Windows Defender. It scans apps in the background and when you download them alerting you if harmful behavior is detected.
It is an excellent early warning system. Always make sure it is enabled.
Related Article: Here’s What your Phone knows about you
Who is the developer?
Learn more about the developer and vendor before installing an app. The developer is the entity that builds the app while the vendor is the entity that supplies the app to the consumer.
Many app stores link to the vendors’ web page. On the Google Play store, this is found at the bottom of the app’s page. If there is no link, or the link doesn’t work, then look them up in a search engine. Reputable app developers are easy to research.
Some questions you can ask about app vendors are:
- Do they have a professional website?
- How is the information collected and used?
- What information is available to advertisers?
- What is the policy for disclosure of personal information?
- Does the vendor have clear security policies?
- Is there clear contact information?
The name of the Application
Do you know those moments of having an iFhone instead of iPhone? The apps are also subject to this foolery.
There are quite a number of impostor apps on Google’s Play Store most claiming to do the same thing or more as more famous apps. For example WhatApp instead of WhatsApp and Facbook instead of Facebook.
Question everything before downloading that app. If you’re looking for a specific app, be sure to know the developer and official app name before downloading it. WhatsApp’s developer will be WhatsApp. Twitter’s developer will be Twitter. Telegram’s developer will be Telegram.
The Numbers Associated with the Application
You need to pay close attention to the number of times an app is downloaded and how many of the app ratings it has. These numbers are milestones used to gauge trustworthiness.
If an application that has been downloaded more than 10 million times, then it is likely to be safe. Apps with high volumes of downloads are time tested and customer approved.
User rating is another way to tell if an application is safe. Be careful about apps with weak ratings. If the download to rating ratio doesn’t make sense, then think thrice before getting the app.
The last thing you’d want to do is allow random access to your private information by an application. You, therefore, need to download apps that you have thoroughly screened.