Consumer, Mobile Security

Android Apps: Trick or Treat?

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By on Oct 31, 2012

Halloween is here but don’t be scared by ghosts and goblins – the things that go bump in the night might just be malicious spyware, malware and viruses invading your phone and collecting your personal information. Before you trick-or-treat around the app world, be aware that some of those seemingly harmless apps could become more dangerous than you had imagined.

Free apps, much like Halloween candy, can be tempting but not worth indulging. Cybercriminals have been busy this season distributing malicious apps with the sole purpose of stealing the personal information stored on your phone, sometimes even sending out expensive texts to your contacts without your knowledge. A study conducted by Leibniz University of Hannover and Philipps University of Marburg found that 8% of apps have the capabilities to steal your personal information or infect your phone with malicious malware.

Popular free apps downloaded through Google Play can access your personal information in several ways. By not being aware before downloading that treat of an application can quickly trick you into stealing your personal information.

Simply by “checking-in” at your favorite restaurant or tagging the location of your latest picture you might be giving cybercriminals more information than you realize. When opened, specific apps are able to track and pinpoint your exact location on any given day.

Other apps obtain your information through permission given by Android users themselves. By accepting the terms of agreement you may be unknowingly giving your app permission to search contact lists, personal photos and email addresses.

Malicious attacks from your favorite apps can be easily avoided by being aware, smart and secure. Follow these five steps to ensure your mobile device is safe before downloading that app:

  1. Be aware of bad apps— just knowing about the problem can help you avoid trouble. Be suspicious when you see negative reviews of an app or come across a free app that seems too good to be true. Check out the McAfee Mobile Security Advice Center for more info.
  2. Do your research— before downloading an app, check other users ratings and read reviews of the publishers. These ratings and reviews will give important insight of potential problems others have encountered with the app.
  3. Only purchase from a reputable app store—stick with legitimate vendors, such as Google Play or the Apple App Store. Android users can also avoid installing non-market apps by deselecting the “Unknown Sources” option in their device’s Application Settings menu.
  4. Check the permissions— when you are installing an app, check to see if it is asking for permission to access your personal data, location, camera or even your network. Understanding all permissions can be difficult but with the help of McAfee App Alert technology, users will have a better understanding whether an app is risky to install.
  5. Get mobile security— before downloading any new apps, make sure you install mobile antivirus software on your phone to help protect you from malicious apps and other mobile threats. Software options can include backup and restore functions, as well as the ability to locate and track your device.

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