Summary: Studies how the US is the largest seller of malicious apps in the world. Because users are downloading apps from legitimate app stores they assume everything is ok. This is far from the truth.
There are steps to take so your device stays secure and your information stays private. Taking a little time for research and making sure you have the right settings disabled or enabled will help keep your information and data out of criminals’ hands.
A recent study revealed the United States sells more malicious apps than any other country. This does not mean the apps are developed in the US. Rather, the study showed the apps are made in other countries with cheap labor and then sold to companies in the US.
Operating this way allows developers of malicious apps to sell their product on legitimate stores, like Apple’s app store and the Google Play Store. What does this mean to you? There is a good chance you will come across a malicious app the next time you are browsing for a game or productivity app.
Furthermore, the study showed the vast majority of malicious apps are not designed for jailbreak devices. Instead, they are designed for everyday phones and tablets, much like the ones you and I use.
Plus, since they are available on legitimate stores. This isn’t a case of getting a malicious app because you clicked on a Twitter link. These malicious apps are mixed in with the millions of legitimate apps we browse and download every day.
Impact of Malicious Apps
As you would guess, these malicious apps are designed to do the typical criminal and evil acts. They can copy and send your private documents, pictures, and information to the criminal’s server. These apps also find your browsing history and install other apps to display advertisements or carry out even more malicious deeds.
Studies have also shown these apps will install other malicious apps, providing backdoors into your device for later use. This could include applications that look legitimate, but when you log into your account you get an error and now the criminal has your login credentials.
It goes without saying, these apps are called “malicious” just because it’s a big word. They are designed to give someone else access to everything on your device. Since we all use our devices for everything from email to social media to banking, this is scary stuff.
What to Do
There are ways to protect your device and keep your private and sensitive data secure. First, do a little research before downloading an app. Check out the reviews and ratings before tapping the install button. If others have been burned by the app, you will see comments about it in the reviews. We realize this means you don’t get the instant gratification of immediately downloading the cool game and playing it. The reward outweighs the risk though, many times over.
Also, check out the permissions for the app. Does it really need access to your WiFi settings and contacts? If the permissions do not match the app, leave it be and look for something else. A good example is flashlight apps. Many flashlight apps are really malicious in nature, which is revealed when you see the app wants permission to GPS, WiFi, and more. Does a light really need access to those things? Nope!
Turn off the setting to auto-connect to WiFi networks. WiFi, especially public networks, are a favorite of hackers and criminals. There is no need for your device to keep looking for networks and automatically connect to them. Go ahead and disable the setting and connect to a network you know and trust.
Like your computer, your mobile device needs anti-virus and anti-spyware software. There are dozens and dozens of options from recognized and respected companies. Do a little research and install one that matches your preferences. It is another great layer of security for your phone or tablet.
Last, but not least, if your device starts acting strangely it is probably because something is wrong. Check the apps and your settings and see what has changed. If you have anti-virus software you should run a scan. If you don’t, now is a great time (albeit a little late) to install some and run a scan. Turn off WiFi and mobile connections if you can so the device isn’t broadcasting. If you are stumped, do some research based on what your device is doing. You probably are not the first person to have the problem and others will know how to get everything fixed.
Be Cautious Before Downloading an App
Just because you are browsing a legitimate app store based in the US doesn’t mean the apps you see are safe. As the study showed, the US is the largest seller of malicious apps. Take a little time to research the app and make sure you have installed software to protect your device.
With the prevalence of malicious apps and criminals looking to steal your data, the threat is not going anywhere. Take steps now, if you haven’t already, to keep yourself from being another statistic.