Google’s ecosystem may be increasingly safe thanks to constant improvements to Play Protect. But that doesn’t mean the chances of downloading an infected app are completely zero. Security and antivirus apps are great, too. But what if your device is already infected? If your Android device is suddenly slow, using too much data, or showing corrupted data. Then you could have downloaded an app infected with malware on your Android— or the much more obvious ransomware. Suspect apps often promising free work software, cheat codes, new games, porn, or money. They are an increasingly common method of getting viruses onto your mobile devices, where they wreak havoc and steal data.
Android may have a more open platform than Apple, but with that comes the potential for malware. Google is trying to take steps to correct it with things like Google Play Protect. But it’s still out there. With a little bit of care, though, it’s pretty easy to keep your phone safe and malware-free.
What Is Android Malware?
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “malware” before. Actually, it is a shortened version of “malicious software.” It’s all too common of an issue on Windows, but you can’t really think of it as the same thing on Android. It’s not going to cause a bunch of popups, make your browser lag, install toolbars, or anything like that. It just doesn’t work the same way.
Often, people won’t even know they have this garbage installed, because it keeps itself more hidden on Android. A malicious app may disguise itself as a legitimate app, or it may hide itself from your view completely. All the while, though, Android malware can run in the background doing any number of questionable activities, like stealing your private information and uploading it who knows where.
For example, the recently-found Skygofree malware does some pretty bad stuff. Like having the option to execute some 48 different commands, turn on your phone’s microphone, connect to compromised Wi-Fi and collect tons of information, and more. It’s bad.
But don’t dump your phone and head for Apple just yet. It’s pretty easy to avoid malware on Android, as long as you’re even the slightest bit careful. Here’s what you should do.
How to Avoid Android Malware?
Android is the most popular mobile operating system, which explains why Android-specific malware is the most common. There is another reason Android users are more exposed: Android lets you install apps from any source, not just from the one official store, as is the case with iOS.
On the one hand, this gives Android users a wider selection of apps. On the other hand, it compromises security because anybody can write an app and distribute it over all sorts of channels, be they app stores, ads, or discussion boards — you name it. Getting an Android device infected is the easiest thing in the world. Yet there are also ways to minimize the risk. Here are some basic rules you should follow to avoid problems.
1. Download Apps from Google Play Only
One of important ways for protecting your Android against malware is to only use Google Play. Google has an entire department specifically tasked with checking apps that end up in Google Play. Admittedly, malware still manages to find its way into the store. Yet the risk of downloading a malicious app from the official Google store is much lower compared with any other source. Google reps filter out the bulk of malware before it reaches users.
You might also trust other stores, as long as they are big and well known and have a policy of not accepting questionable apps from developers. The safer course of action, however, would be to disable the installation of apps from third-party sources in Android’s settings. By doing so, you will keep the device safe from the majority of Trojans that spread through ads and third-party sites.
To do so, toggle off the option for Settings >> Security >> Unknown sources.
2. Avoid Third-party App Stores
Because you can sideload apps on Android, that means you can also sideload third-party app stores. There aren’t many legitimate reasons to do this, though there are exceptions like using Amazon’s Appstore for exclusive apps or deals.
But the general rule here should be this: just use Google Play. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a lot safer than using some potentially janky third-party option that could be filled with all sorts of junk. Here’s how a bad situation could play out: let’s say you install a questionable third-party app store. You have to enable sideloading to install it in the first place, which allows you to also use this app store to install more apps. Even if you’re using Android Oreo, which requires sideloading to be enabled on a app-by-app basis, you have to grant this new app store permission to install apps.
But what if this app store itself is malicious? Now it has permission to install more apps, so it can install more malware. This is one of the primary ways malware is spread through the system.
3. Don’t Install Pirated Apps, for the Love of God
This goes hand-in-hand with the above point, and probably goes without saying, but don’t pirate apps, you guys! Just like on Windows, pirating software is a great way to riddle your device with all sorts of questionable software. Who knows what you’re actually installing with pirated content, because it’s not always what you think it is.
Also, you know, pirating software from hardworking developers is just a generally crappy thing to do. So just don’t do it, okay?
4. Check the Rating and Read User Reviews
A high app rating in the store is a hallmark of a good, helpful, and safe app. You should still adopt a cautious approach. However, sometimes fraudsters use Trojans to boost app ratings and publish fake user reviews.
That’s why a high app rating is not enough. User reviews are another important element. See if they seem to have been written by real people, not bots. Trojan-generated reviews are most often favorable and simply worded. Several identical reviews in a row is another red flag. In the case of trusted and truly popular apps, ratings seldom reach five points, and their user reviews are often detailed. You should probably also come across some negative reviews posted by users trying to get in touch with the developer to get app issues resolved.
5. Pay Attention to Permissions the App Requests During Installation
The system of permissions is an Android protection mechanism that controls how much freedom apps get. Permissions are used by apps to access specific functions and data. Apps can do very little if permission has not been granted.
You should know what kind of permissions can be dangerous and what risks they pose. Most common dangers involve an app’s ability to collect your data (location, contacts, personal files) and perform certain operations such as taking photos or recording audio, sending messages, and so forth.
Before installing an app, carefully review the specific permissions it is requesting and evaluate these requests reasonably: Does the app really need these permissions and why? Are the permission requests at all suspicious? In Android 6.0 or later you can also review, grant, or revoke permissions in device settings.
6. Use a Reliable Security Solution
Whatever you intend to download, make sure that your device has a reliable security solution. There are two versions of Kaspersky Internet Security for Android. The basic free version, which lets you scan apps manually, and the extended commercial version, which scans automatically.
An informed approach is what all these rules have in common. Before installing an app, ask yourself: Do you really need it? Do you trust its source? Do its permission requests seem reasonable? If you approach app choice with good common sense and some education on security issues, you will not have to worry about usability and digital safety.
7. Always Install System Updates
Google releases monthly security patches for Android, which help in keeping the system protected against attacks. Especially when a specific vulnerability is found that malware is trying to exploit your Android.
While every not every manufacturer will release updates as quickly they should, it’s your job to install every one they do send out. They won’t all bring new features, but the stuff they do behind the scenes will keep you protected against these attacks. Take the 15 minutes out of your day and do it.
The Bottom Line
Hope this tutorial was help you to protect your Android device, avoid malware, and improve your phone security. If you have any question don’t hesitate to share with us, we are all ears for you guys.