How Safe are your Mobile Apps?

Did you know there are over two million apps to choose from in the iPhone app and Google Play stores?

With that many options, it can be difficult for you to pick which apps are worth your time. Time.com shares the 25 Best Apps of the Year and PC Mag provides their 100 best Android and iPhone picks.

But, wait a minute! Before you download any of those apps (or apps that may be on your checklist to download), make sure to follow these tips to test whether each app is trustworthy and secure:

  1. Have you downloaded a security app that scans new apps for safety? If not, check out Sophos Mobile Security, Trend Micro, or Lookout.
  2. Make sure the “marketplace” is trustworthy. How do you know?
    1. Terms of Service are well written and developed.
    2. The marketplace/developer includes clear contact information and a troubleshooting frequently asked questions (FAQs) list if there is a problem.
    3. The marketplace follows strict app criteria.
    4. The developer provides regular updates to outdated apps.
    5. The marketplace removes vendors who do not meet this criterion in numbers one through four.
  3. Know the source. Never download an app outside of the iPhone or Google play store. Double check the “maker” is the trusted source. Third party apps from websites (outside of the iPhone or Google Play store) may contain hidden links or hijacking code.
  4. ALWAYS read the terms of service to see what rights and permissions you give the app.
  5. Pay attention to app ratings and the number of times the app has been downloaded.
  6. Check user reviews or comments to discover if there are any red flags or issues to be aware of.
  7. If an app offers a paid version, consider buying that version over the “free” version. The paid version is less likely to contain malware and phishing code behind it AND the terms of service (that you check or sign) may allow the company to access your data (photos, text messages, contacts, phone calls, location, etc.)
  8. Once the app is downloaded, click on the app settings to evaluate privacy, security, and general settings. Always change privacy and security settings from the default setting. Also, turn off any permissions you do not want the app to have access to (like photos, phone messages, text messages, location, contacts, etc.)
  9. Regularly re-evaluate apps you have downloaded on your phone. It is a best practice to minimize the number of apps that you download and regularly ask yourself, “have I used this app in the last week or month?” If the answer is no, delete it right away. Mobile apps that you do not open or pay attention to are likely to be targeted by hackers and cyber phishers.
  10.   Be careful downloading games and fun apps (coders love to hide some of the most malicious code where they know people will go for downtime/fun).

Remember your smartphone stores data like all your other devices. “Care” what you “Share!” Email pmap@scbar.org if you need assistance.

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