Safe Apps Man Touching Phone

5 simple ways to vet smartphone apps

How many apps do you have on your phone right now?  10?  20?  More?  According to Nielson, this number is somewhere around 26 for U.S. smartphone users.

Can you say for sure that all 26 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.  So to help you out, here are a few tips to make avoiding malicious apps a little easier.

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.  If you download an app directly from a website, then your chances of contracting a smartphone infection are greater.  Stick to the app store, 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.  Can 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.

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 has prior to download.  Review these 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.

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