6 Ways To Check That An Android App Is Safe To Download

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App stores like the Google Play Store improve security every year. Still, malicious apps end up on people’s phones from time to time. To make sure an app is safe, you need to know what to look for and where to look.

Here are the top six ways to check if an app is safe before downloading it to your Android device.

1. Look for red flags in reviews

Photo of a person in a costume leaving a review of a star.

Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

It’s important to look past the app’s star rating. Research shows that over 90% of people base their decisions on reviews, and malicious developers abuse that trust by planting fake reviews on their apps.

So reviews are one of the most important things to check when downloading a new app. However, five star messages are often put forward. So you may need to click on some filters to see people’s complaints.

If more than one or two people warn that the app is a scam or contains malicious elements, be careful. Even though the comments are vague hyperbole like “this broke my phone”, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If the app has a lot of great reviews, take a look at how similar those reviews are. Usually, fake reviews are short, enthusiastic comments with general statements. For example, “The most wonderful app! I like it very much.” They usually do not highlight specific characteristics.

questionable reviews

Of course, some people sincerely leave reviews like these. The main thing to look for is quantity. If there are a lot of short and similar reviews, they may have been copy-pasted or bot-generated.

Finally, scammers aren’t known for their great customer service. If the developer responds to comments, it’s a good sign that the app is legitimate. Especially if they are trying to help people with their complaints.

2. Carefully read the description of the application

Spelling and grammar issues don’t always mean an app is dangerous. It could just mean that the creator’s writing skills are not as high as their programming skills. Keyword stuffing is a more reliable red flag.

An honest developer will naturally put keywords in the sentence. If the text starts listing search terms rather than describing the product, that’s a red flag.

You should also be wary of enthusiastic but nonspecific descriptions. Broad promises to solve all your problems or to perform flawlessly all the time are seldom true. A trustworthy app can name specific features and explain how they add to your experience. Scammers are more likely to generalize.

If the app offers in-app purchases or subscription plans, it should provide even more details. If the description doesn’t tell you what specific benefits your payment will provide, that’s a red flag. Likewise, apps that don’t provide details of what their app can do may be hiding something. Be careful when the description is vague.

3. Check the number of downloads

Start by looking at the release date. If an app is not only a year or two old but has millions of downloads, that’s a huge red flag. The numbers are likely to be artificially inflated. Malicious developers do this by using bots or fake accounts to download their app over and over again.

There is no hard and fast rule for how many downloads are too many. But we can use averages to establish a frame of reference. It’s hard for a new app from an unknown publisher to reach 500 downloads by the end of its first month.

Most new apps don’t go that far, underperforming during this crucial re-release period. This is why high download rates from unknown publishers are so suspect.

It’s almost unheard of for a new app to reach tens of thousands of downloads in just a few months. If that happened, it would definitely be in the news. If the app is truly a smash hit, there will be at least a few tech blogs talking about it.

An app that has had several years to increase its number of downloads might be safer. Many scam apps have a short lifespan and get deleted when reports accumulate. But you shouldn’t trust an app just based on its age and popularity. After all, several popular apps are also dangerous.

4. Review the list of permissions

If the app asks for device permissions that don’t make sense to it, beware. You can check the permissions of an app in the Google Play Store.

Go to the app page, tap About this app, then select the See more option which is attached to the Permissions menu. In this menu, you’ll see a summary of what each permission allows the app to do.

android app permissions

A permission is suspicious if the app doesn’t list any functionality that needs it. For example, a request to listen to the microphone would be alarming in a Solitaire game application. But it makes perfect sense in a video editor.

Be especially wary of apps that ask for dangerous permissions. Dangerous permissions are those that allow the application to read, receive, or write sensitive information. For example, your location, stored files, phone calls, text messages, or audio.

Malicious developers make a profit by selling this information or withholding it as a ransom. Once an app owns your sensitive data, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to recover your privacy. It’s best not to risk granting access in the first place.

5. Find the developer’s web page

You can find the webpage by clicking on the developer’s name in the Google Play Store. You can also Googling the following channel: “[DEV NAME] mobile apps. ”Be sure to check the Google News results. Has this developer been in the headlines about any scandals recently? What about the parent company?

Looking at the developer’s other apps can also give you clues. If the developer has only a small number of apps, but ridiculous download numbers, that’s a red flag. If they have a lot of apps, but the only clear difference is the name or color of the icon, that’s a red flag too.

Honest developers will also not have clones or imitations of other people’s apps. If the developer is imitating more popular products or saying their app is a discounted version, don’t click! The real developer would just post a sale, not a separate download.

6. Pay attention to the installation process

sign-here-phone

Some malicious or spam apps slip you into the terms and conditions. These sneaky developers know that most people will click “accept” without reading. So they require you to consent to data mining, data sharing, pop-ups and all kinds of other things. The solution is to read carefully.

If the app presents you with terms and conditions when you open it, read them. If that’s too hard to figure out, try using a plain language translator like Rewordify. If it’s still too dense, you might be better off closing it and uninstalling it.

Apps that want you to accept a lot of extra stuff might try to steal your data. Be especially careful if they don’t seem interested in helping you figure out why they need it.

Enjoy peace of mind when downloading

Your personal data is valuable and deserves your time to protect it. These steps can also save you from problems with spam advertising. With just a moment or two of reading and a little common sense, you can feel confident about your downloads.

But apps aren’t the only ways malicious developers can access your data. Make sure you perform regular phone maintenance and use a good antivirus!


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