The Android Marketplace has thousands of apps available. You can choose games, reference tools, productivity features, books and the list goes on and on. One reason the Android Marketplace offers such a large variety of apps is that it's so easy for software developers to upload apps there. Anyone can create an app and place it on the Android Market. It does not go through a scrutinizing process that you find for apps in the Apple Store.
Unfortunately, this creative freedom has not only attracted app developers, but cyber criminals as well. They know they can easily access your information, while you simply think you are just downloading a harmless app. Many of the threats found on these apps are more annoying than destructive, but some can cause serious damage. We have compiled a list of several precautions you should take to ensure your smartphone is safe and remains untouched from these mobile predators.
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Grant permission sparingly
Some apps may request permission to access different areas on your smartphone. If you grant this permission, you may be setting yourself up for theft. These permissions may include anything from requesting your GPS location, network access or camera capabilities. Some apps will ask for personal information or even access into your text messages. Before you grant access into any of your phone’s functions, ask yourself a few questions. Does this app really need to know my GPS location? How will my SMS messages affect this game? Do I really want them to access my browser history? If something seems suspect, don't OK it until you examine the app further and determine it's safe.
Research, research, research
Before you install and download any application onto your Android smartphone, make sure you have done your research. Read what others users have to say about the app. If an app contains a virus, someone will most likely warn other users. Read through several comments, not just the first one or two. Look for all of the pros and the cons before you push install.
Reading the comments isn't the only important research you should do. Check out the ratings of each app. If an app has two stars or less, it is not worth the risk of downloading. Find an app that is similar with a higher rating and better comments.
Get strong mobile security software
Mobile virus protection software can detect malware before it destroys your smartphone. A security application with an app scanner and real-time protection is designed to search any application you download for malicious threats and protect your data if any threats are found. However, even if you have this software installed on your Android device, make sure the software is updated regularly. New threats are created every day, and without updated protection you may just become victim to an online predator.
Be cautious with online banking
Online banking is a wonderful tool that helps us keep our finances in order, even when we're on the go. However, if you download any type of banking app on your Android device, research the app and find out as much as possible. In January 2010, more than 50 banking applications were pulled from the Android marketplace for security issues. Instead of sending the banking information to the bank, the fraudulent apps were sending the account information to the creators of the apps. The Android Marketplace has not had a problem this large with online banking apps since the January 2010 incident, but Android users should still be cautious when providing any type of financial information on their smartphone.
Be wary of updates
We all want the most recent version of an app on our smartphone. But when updating the app, it is vital that we maintain the same precautions we did before the initial download. Malware can still find its way onto your smartphone through an update. In fact, it can be much easier for the malware to come onto your phone because you already believe the application to be safe. Before updating any app, start from the beginning. Do the research, ask yourself questions, check the permissions and make sure you have the security installed on your device to protect yourself just in case you download an infected app.