When it comes to apps and widgets, today’s technology users are like kids in a toy store. The last few years have seen a bona fide app explosion, with over half a million available for the iPhone alone…but, predictably, there are criminals out there determined to rain on our widget parade.
Luckily, by just knowing that these threats exist, you can protect yourself and your Android™, iPhone® or Windows® Phone. So before you casually download your next app or widget, keep these four things in mind.
1) Who and where did it come from?
One of the beauties of apps is that they can be built by anyone—from mega-corporations to the 10-year-old paperboy down the street. The downside of that is…they can be built by anyone, including a cyber thief with malicious intent.
So before you click that download button, make sure you’re getting an app from the official market of whatever platform you’re on. Android has very clear content policies for their official Android Market, and if a piece of malware were to show up, it would be quickly quashed by Google’s Android engineers. The Apple® App Store has similar Review Guidelines and rules to keep you (and your children) safe from malicious or inappropriate content.
Also, check to see that an app is well rated and highly downloaded. Those are two glaring clues as to the purity of its intent.
2) Avoid peer-to-peer like the plague.
Chances are you aren’t out there downloading pirated apps and widgets off an underground peer-to-peer network. These file sharing websites are more prone to malware and Trojan horses, like the one that fired off an embarrassing SMS message to the users’ entire phone book. But, if you can’t resist saving a buck by grabbing an app or widget from a p2p network, exercise extreme caution. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.
3) Read the fine print.
When you download an app, you’re often asked to give the developer permission to certain information and abilities, including allowing the application to prevent the phone from sleeping, to read who the users call and which states they’re from, or allowing access to the phone’s Internet connection. Keep an eye on what the developer is asking for, especially anything that allows them to make calls or send texts from your phone—this can be used by scammers to rack up expensive texting charges.
4) Protect your devices.
If you have an Android 2.2 or later, be sure to check out Norton™ Mobile Security
. It automatically scans downloaded apps and app updates for threats, blocks fraudulent websites designed to trick you into revealing personal info, and detects and removes mobile hazards that the bad guys can use to eavesdrop on you, send spam texts and control your mobile device.
Overall, we suggest staying a step ahead of the bad guys. Start by doing some research and downloading an antivirus program for whatever platform you’re on. Whether you have an iPhone, an Android or a Windows Phone, so long as you get it from the official app shop, you can download without a care and protect yourself from a future app attack.