• Tara Grey

How to Make Sure the Mobile Apps You Use Are Safe


Mobile apps have become a popular way to use the internet. Going into a browser on a small smartphone screen can be frustrating, and mobile apps are made to be used on phones.


In 2020, the average person had 40 apps installed on their mobile device. We use apps for email, social media, games, organizations like AARP, music, gardening tips, and so much more. Just about any type of service you can think of could have a mobile app for it.


While those apps are definitely convenient, they’re also targets for hackers. Criminal groups will often launch mobile apps that have malware hidden inside.


You might see something like a free game or task management app and download it. It will even open and do whatever it is supposed to do, thus you won’t suspect a thing. But the app will have malware inside that launches as soon as you install the app.


This malware could be:

  • Spyware that sends your data to the hacker

  • Adware that causes ads to begin popping up on your phone

  • Ransomware that infects any connected cloud storage applications

  • Banking trojan that searches for an online banking app on your phone to break into

You can often get directed to these malicious apps through a phishing email or malicious text message. You might also run across them when searching online or when scrolling through your social media.


It’s not easy to spot a fake from the real thing, because the criminals will go all out to use nice graphics and screenshots, just like other mobile app developers do.


How Prevalent Are Malicious Mobile Apps?


In December of 2021, there were over 2.2 million mobile malware attacks on smartphone users.


According to the antivirus company, McAfee, mobile malware skyrocketed during the pandemic. During the first year of the pandemic, the company detected 43 million infections.


Ways to Protect Data & Device Mobile Threats


There are a number of ways that the apps you install on your phone can leave your data vulnerable. One way is through mobile malware hidden inside apps. Another is if you grant the app too much permission and it begins sharing data with advertisers that you never meant to share.


Yet a third way is if external malware is targeted at any vulnerabilities in the code of the app. This is usually worse if the app isn’t kept updated.


Here are some ways to use your mobile apps more securely.


Only Download Apps From Official App Stores


Only download mobile apps from the official app stores. While a malicious app can sometimes get through the screeners at these stores, it’s generally quickly removed as soon as it’s discovered.


You have some security knowing that app developers are checked and monitored in these stores, which reduces the risk of downloading a dangerous app.


The three main official app stores are:


Do a Quick Google Search on the App First & Look at Reviews


People are usually pretty good about warning others when it comes to bad products of all kinds, and this includes mobile apps.


Before you click to download and install an app, do two things:

  1. Do a Google search on the name of the app and the word “reviews” to see if any red flags come up.

  2. Look at reviews for the app in the various app stores or mobile review sites.


Pay Attention to the Permissions You Grant the App


Mobile apps can end up sharing a lot more information than you realize. For example, if you grant access to your “Contacts,” which is a common permission request for apps, then every person in your contact address book and all their data will be shared with the app developer.


You have no idea what they will do with it from there.


If you allow an app to use your location, then you can bet it will be tracking your every movement and sending that data to who knows where.


While some apps might need to track location to be useful – like Google Maps, for example, most don’t really need this. They’ll allow you to use your zip code to find something locally.


In most cases, you can press “no” and NOT give permissions the app asks for, and it won’t negatively impact using the app. It’s best to say no first when asked to grant permissions. If you need to, you can always grant a certain permission later.


If you need help doing this, we can set up a smartphone tutoring session to take a look at your current app permissions and adjust them to be more secure.


Don’t Use Another Account (Like Facebook or Google) to Sign Into the App


When you log in to a new app using your Facebook, Google, Apple, or another account, you’re automatically allowing that app access to your data in that account. It’s best not to do this, and instead to just set up a new login with the app.


Keep Your Apps Updated


Mobile apps need to be kept updated, just like the software on your computer. These updates often have security fixes for new vulnerabilities that hackers have started exploiting.


Put your apps on automatic update, so you don’t risk a virus or malware infection due to a non-updated app.


Delete Apps You Are Not Using


We all have apps that we haven’t opened in like a year or two. Uninstall these. The more apps you have on your device, the more risk of a malware infection.


You may even find that some apps are no longer supported by the developer at all, meaning no security patches. This leaves you even more at risk of a breach if you leave them on your phone.


Need Help Improving Mobile Device Security?


Come to CompuTara for friendly personalized tutoring on smartphone security. I can work with you to improve your mobile safety so you can enjoy your phone with peace of mind.


Schedule a tutoring session today! Call or text me at: 862-368-4893 or Email me here.

 

Links Used:

https://techjury.net/blog/app-usage-statistics/

https://www.computara.com/post/4-fake-text-message-scams-to-watch-out-for

https://securelist.com/mobile-malware-evolution-2021/105876/

https://www.channelfutures.com/mssp-insider/mcafee-mobile-malware-attacks-skyrocket-during-pandemic

https://www.apple.com/app-store/

https://play.google.com/store

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/windows

https://www.computara.com/services

https://www.computara.com/contact

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