cell-phonePurchasing an app from a mobile store, whether from the iTunes Store or Google Play Store, can give you a false sense of security. After all, if the app has made it into the store, some assume that it must be safe. But that simply isn’t true.

Malicious apps target users in one of two ways. They hope the user will either install an app on their phone that allows them to steal valuable PII (Personally identifiable information), such as passwords or banking information. Or they get the user to spend a dollar or two downloading an app that doesn’t work. After all, if they get a million people to download an app such as this, they have the potential to make a million dollars or more.

So what can you do to make sure that your device, whether it’s your own or your company’s, doesn’t fall prey to such a scam?

  1. Common sense. Before downloading an app, do a little bit of research. You know what’s great about smartphones? They’re already wired to the internet. Google an app you’d like to add to your phone first, before you purchase. If your Google search checks out, take a minute and read the reviews of the app in the app store. If the app gets good reviews, this is a good sign. If the app has gotten nothing but negative reviews, think twice before adding the program to your mobile device.
  2. Let’s say you decide to go ahead and download the app. If the app prompts you to grant excessive permissions, such as access to your photos, contacts, location, etc., that’s a red flag. For instance, if you download a game in the vein of Angry Birds, there’s no reason that app should need access to your location or your contacts. If a newly downloaded app prompts you for these kinds of permissions, cancel the download or delete the app immediately.
  3. Don’t download apps from third party app stores. Stick to the iTunes Store or the Google Play Store.
  4. Be aware of your apps’ activity after you download them. Stay up to date in your security awareness news, as things change from day to day. For instance, WhatsApp, a popular, verified messenger app, has recently fallen into hot water. Facebook purchased the app, which has upset many users, because the new set up compromises the privacy of their messages.
  5. Always keep your phone up-to-date with the latest software updates. Phones that do not stay updated often have holes in their system that hackers can easily take advantage of through an infected app.

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