Tech Tip: Are App Store Apps Secure?

From Computerware, Inc.:

The smartphone app ecosystems today are extraordinarily vast. The Google Play store has over 3.5 million apps available, while the Apple App store has over 1.6 million apps. The question becomes, with so many different applications available on these platforms, how can you be so sure that the apps you’re downloading to your mobile device are secure?

Let’s take a look at mobile app store security and why it’s become more than just a security issue.

App Store Security

Both Google and Apple take care to protect their users from malware. It’s not a perfect system, but generally, these app stores want you to be able to trust the content available on them. After all, a breach could be kind of ominous since a corrupt app might presumably lead to stolen data, deployment of malware, and other destructive outcomes.

Google’s Play Store has a lot of protections in place to limit the number of insecure apps that make it on the platform, but they also have the highest track record of problematic software available for the user to download. The Apple app store has fewer examples of this type of problem being reported, but it still happens. The same can be said of Amazon’s. Basically, if you’re going to download apps for your mobile device, most of them will be legitimate.

That’s not to say, however, that you should trust every single download.

Do App Stores Make All Apps Safe for Consumers?

The world’s massive volume of mobile device users depend on their app ecosystems to acquire the secure software they use to make their mobile devices run. The official app stores, the Google Play store for Android-fueled phones; and Apple store for iOS-fueled devices, have procedures in place that check every new app for malicious behavior.

Unfortunately, some malignant apps do get through, even though it’s a minuscule percentage. These apps can still deploy malware and siphon data and put any network that the phone comes into contact with into peril.

What Types of Problems Can Users See?

If you’re one of the people who’s unfortunate enough to download a malicious app from a reputable app store, here are three problems you can run into:

  • Ad fraud – Most popular apps and games use advertising to make money, but fraudulent ads actually run in the background, rerouting ad clicks to different websites and using up the battery and bandwidth of the user’s phone.
  • Browser hacking – Malicious apps can work to hijack an Internet browser causing it to open websites that transmit personal information or promote fraudulent material
  • Data theft – While all apps are actually installed away from the critical data on your phone, users who aren’t vigilant about what access an app can have to a device can have their data stolen.

What You Can Do

There are a few definitive steps you can take to ensure you don’t have to deal with malicious apps. They include:

  • Don’t jailbreak your phone – Sure, the app stores may not be perfect, but it’s infinitely more secure than downloading alternative apps from the Internet. Sideloading apps on a jailbroken phone will increase the chances you’ll have to deal with malicious apps, so don’t do it.
  • Keep mobile OS updated – Like any other piece of software, you need to frequently update your OS to ensure that you aren’t dealing with vulnerabilities that could cause problems.
  • Research apps before you download them – You should look at the reviews of apps before you download them. Smaller developers put out great tools, but the more you know about an app before it gets downloaded the more confident you can be that you aren’t downloading malware.

If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate mobile productivity and security for your business, call one of our knowledgeable consultants at (703) 821-8200 today.


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