Plenty of security experts warn that people should avoid third-party app stores due to malware and security issues. Unfortunately, official app stores like the Google Play Store and Apple App Store can be just as dangerous.
These major app stores still fall prey to malicious hackers, who find ways around their security measures. The Play Store is especially vulnerable, both due to the popularity of Android and because it doesn’t have a closed system like Apple.
The Play Store is once again struggling to keep the scourge of fake malware apps at bay. And people are still too trusting because the store is an official marketplace for mobile apps. They trust that the apps on the platform are legitimate and see no reason to be cautious.
Here are 9 popular but dangerous Android apps that can infect a mobile device, steal important files and passwords, and even bypass two-factor authentication.
1. Music Players
Smartphones already come with pretty well-functioning music players, and there’s very little reason to want a different one. Downloading a new music player can invite unnecessary gaps in the phone’s security for an app it already has.
Both BeatPlayer, Music Player have been found to use the recently discovered AlienBot, a banking trojan. And Fildo Music is illegal music downloading app that turned into a “legitimate” music player. These two examples show how quickly things can go wrong.
2. Obscure Browsers
People share a lot of private information with their browsers, from login details to valuable browsing habits. Stick to the well-known browsers backed by companies held accountable by the public eye. Less-known browsers like UC Browser and Dolphin Browser have incorporated terrible tracking and privacy violation practices.
3. Free VPNs
VPN software has become an essential security tool (and a helpful way to reach blocked content). But not all of them are helpful. Free VPNs claim to put the user first, but they often have shady money-making practices, like selling people’s data. Avoid free VPNs like SuperVPN and Pacific VPN.
4. Voice Recorders
Like with music players, most smartphones already have high-quality voice recorders installed. There’s no need to dabble with fire by installing an unknown app from a third party. QRecorder is another app that has been found to make use of the AlienBot trojan.
5. Cleaner Apps
While there are legitimate phone “cleaning” apps, most are scams that can do more harm than good. Super Clean by Magical Dev, Cleanit, and Virus Cleaner (Antivirus Free & Phone Cleaner) have all been found to be harmful.
6. Apps That Claim to Increase RAM
Let’s get this out of the way right now: there’s no way to increase a phone’s RAM. Any app that claims differently is definitely malware. This includes apps like Memory Safe and Warehouse Storage.
7. Unknown AntiVirus Programs
Antivirus programs can be beneficial, but the Play Store has been inundated with these apps. All of them claim to be the best program out there, keeping phones safe from viruses and malware. Many of them are wolves in disguise. Stick to legitimate, well-known antivirus brands.
8. Disk Cleaning Apps
People recognize disk defragmentation apps because of the same software on PCs. Here’s the thing, though – phones don’t have hard drives to defragment. The best these apps can do is delete other apps to make more space on the phone’s storage. And that’s something people can do themselves.
9. Lie Detector Apps
A phone cannot double as a lie detector. It doesn’t have the capabilities, and no app is suddenly going to gain the ability to detect lies. Like with extra RAM apps, try to ignore these.
How to Avoid Downloading Potentially Dangerous Apps
There’s no foolproof way to avoid malware or unsafe apps. Even the Play Store, with all its resources and developers, can’t manage to do that. But there are a couple of things anyone can do to decrease their level of risk. Let’s take a look at some prudent ways to avoid dangerous apps:
To start with, don’t install unnecessary apps. People tend to have a lot of unused apps sitting on their phones. Not only do these apps pose a potential way for outside hackers to get into the phone, but they could be malware-ridden as well. Always check an app’s download numbers, reviews, and app permissions before downloading.
Try to incorporate other security basics as well. Never use a password that’s been used for other apps/accounts, always enable two-factor authentication, and incorporate security tools like VPNs. A VPN (private virtual network) app is as important as an antivirus program because it encrypts – thus protects – the device’s network connection. This prevents hackers from infiltrating the phone via poor app security.
The best way to avoid dangerous apps is to apply some common sense and avoid taking chances. Stay up to date with basic security practices like those mentioned above, and there shouldn’t be any major issues.
The Bottom Line
Google removes malicious apps from its store, but that doesn’t mean the danger passes. Many new apps make it onto the store today with disguised malware that bypass Google’s security checks. There are also the popular apps that remain that aren’t malware per se but invade people’s privacy nonetheless.
The Play Store can be a fantastic place to discover many wonderful new apps, but it should still be approached with caution.