Android Mobile Security – What you need to know about malicious apps

by GOsafeonline | 05 April 2017

Smartphones - they are everywhere today. Due to the success of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android operating system, it is of no surprise that the use of smartphones is surging all over the world, including Singapore.

According to a 2015 survey by Deloitte’s Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), Singapore ranked the highest globally for smartphone penetration, with nine out of 10 respondents having access to a smartphone.

Most people have the misconception that their smartphones are relatively safe and not prone to “cyber attacks”. However, it is important to take note that as the smartphone industry grows, the appearance of malicious apps will follow suit.

What many do not realise is that we transmit a lot of sensitive information on our smartphones, from phone numbers and addresses to credit card numbers, PIN numbers and passwords. Some even have private and confidential documents and photos stored on their phones. This makes us valuable targets for cyber criminals.

How dangerous are these apps?
Malicious apps have been appearing. Many are able to collect sensitive and private data from your phone. Once a malicious app is installed on your phone, the hacker is able to gain control of almost everything. Cybercriminals can potentially access your physical location, pictures, contacts, location, addresses and credit card information without your knowledge. 

I don’t know how these apps got into my phone!
Most people only realise it when it’s too late. Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated and often disguise malicious software as legitimate applications. 

In 2016, a malicious app related to Pokémon GO was discovered in the Google Play Store. The app ‘Guide For Pokémon Go’ was able to download rooting malware onto Android devices, and gained access to the core of the OS. According to Kaspersky, the app was downloaded more than 500,000 times, and successfully infected at least 6,000 devices. The app has since been reported to Google and removed from the Google Play Store.

How to avoid downloading malicious apps to your smartphone?
Here are some handy tips for you to keep your smartphone safe against malicious apps. 

  • Before downloading any app, be it a game or a tool app, do some research on the developer of the official app. For example, the Guide to Pokémon Go which appeared on the Marketplace did not indicate the same developer, ’Niantic, Inc’.
  • Pay attention to the list of security permissions that the app requires before downloading. Ensure that the app you are downloading does not ask for unnecessary permissions on your smartphone. If something looks suspicious, do not take the risk and skip the download.
  • Install a mobile security app for your device. A mobile security app can help to scan the apps you download for malware and spyware, and protects you from unsafe websites. 
  • Read comments from users regarding the app before you download it. They may be able to warn you of the dangers the app can bring you, along with its performance.
  • Check how frequently the app has been downloaded. This may not be the most accurate way, but, if an app gets 3,000,000 downloads and many positive reviews, you are likely to be on the right track.
As smartphones continue to lead the market, there will always be malicious apps lurking around the app store. It is up to you to take that step to install a mobile security app and be cautious about what you download to your phone.