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How to Properly Vet Smartphone Apps

How many apps do you have on your phone right now? Ten? Twenty? More than that? So many you don’t remember some of them? We all know those people (or we are those people). According to Nielson, the average number of apps is somewhere around twenty-six for U.S. smartphone users.

But can you say for sure that all twenty-six of these apps are safe and that they aren’t secretly stealing money from you or accessing personal information? Let’s hope so, for the sake of your finances and your privacy.

Malicious apps are created daily, and, ultimately, it’s up to you to vet the legitimacy of these apps—Google and Apple simply can’t catch them all. (Insert Pokémon joke here.) So to help you out, here are a few tips to make avoiding malicious apps a little easier on you.

Stick to the app store

While Google and Apple can’t possibly detect every malicious app, they can prevent a vast majority of them from reaching their store, Apple especially. If you download an app directly from a website, then your chances of contracting a smartphone infection are much greater. Stick to the verified app stores, and you’ll be better off.

Know who made it

One of the very first things you should do before downloading an app is to check who made the app itself. Do you trust this company? Do you even know who this company is? If not, do a little research. While it’s tempting to take the easy route and tap to download, avoid this at all costs. Take a few minutes to research the maker. You might be surprised by what a simple search will show you. Villainy is everywhere.

Check out the reviews

Reviews are there for a reason. And the good thing about reviews is that you don’t have to exit out of the app store itself. All you have to do is scroll down—yes, it really is that simple. If there’s something up with the app, odds are you’ll run across it in the review section. Reviews can also be useful for uncovering technical issues, as well as security concerns.

Permissions are important

There’s typically a section that will show you what permissions the app requires prior to download. Review these very carefully. Even if you aren’t necessarily concerned about your privacy, you should still question the validity of some of these permissions. Why would a game need access to your GPS? Why would a news app need access to your contacts? Question why an app needs to know the information it wants to know, and you might save yourself from an app with malicious intentions.

Try an app scanner

There are a few applications available that can do the vetting for you.  Norton, for example, will review an app and notify you if it’s a high-risk download. There’s also ZAP, Zscaler Application Profiler. This app allows you to scan or search a potential download. You then receive a security profile that shows you the app’s risk level, as well as an analysis of likely security concerns.

Stay vigilant and take a couple extra seconds to make sure what you’re downloading doesn’t risk your personal information or expose your contacts to the bad guys. You’ll be glad you did.

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