Are Your Mobile Apps Actually Safe To Use
We live in a digital age. From calorie counters and BMI checkers to mobile games and online banking, there’s practically an app for everything. We’re so obsessed with them that last year, App Annie reports that there were over 190 billion app downloads, nearly 15 billion more than 2017. With all the apps currently installed on our phones, how sure are we that any of them are safe?
If you’ve downloaded your app from official stores like Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play Store, then you can at least be sure that the necessary gatekeepers checked these for viruses and the like. However, what if you didn’t? There are plenty of apps, games especially, which are not available for all regions. So when push comes to shove, Android users (since Apple has very tight security) download the APK file directly. APK simply means “Android Package Kit”— the file format that Android uses to distribute and install its apps. These are downloaded from third-party websites.
How do you know your APK-downloaded app is safe? The simple answer is that you don’t. You can download anti-virus scanners, but ultimately, if it wasn’t downloaded from Play Store, there’s no way to know for sure.
Okay, let’s say you trust the app, read their T&C, and found everything within your comfort level. But can you trust its developer? With so many clone apps, especially for popular banks, games, and enterprises, how do you determine which of their developers are real?
One way to know if companies are genuine is to check if they have official accounts, whether it’s through a website or their social media accounts. Apple is an example of a company that hackers usually use to commit fraud, which is why Apple always warns users to only trust messages that come directly from apple.com. For announcements and whatnot, the blue verification check on Twitter and Instagram will let you know if the account is officially affiliated with the brand.
Alternatively, you could also hop on to LinkedIn for a quick company background check. PPPoker's LinkedIn page provides an in-depth look into the company and industry, including exclusive photos and videos from their poker events and partnerships. On top of this, anyone can view their news stream, which is filled with dozens of verified community members. This type of content is simply hard to forge, especially with LinkedIn's strict policies when it comes to maintaining truthful company information. The point here is that reputable companies and app developers will always have an official page on at least one platform. If they don't, then it should raise some eyebrows.
Terms and Conditions
Viruses aren’t the only things that make an app unsafe; you can also need to check its terms of usage. An app’s Terms and Conditions (T&C) is a legally binding contract between you and the publisher. In other words, if you sign one, you automatically agree to its terms and cannot sue the company for anything they’ve written. For example, Facebook states explicitly in their T&C that they collect user data to “target them [with] the right ads.” Anybody who uses Facebook is consenting to have their data exposed, at least to the company.
However, some companies also recognize the tediousness of reading such long contracts. This is why apps like WhatsApp offer an extra layer of protection by encrypting your messages. Regardless, read every app’s T&C whenever possible and find out what you’re getting into.
Finally, we have reviews. Reading reviews is an excellent way to see how others feel about the app, whether it’s safe to use or not. However, it’s unwise to make decisions on the basis of reviews alone. Like social media and dating websites, some reviews are written by fake accounts. Although they’re pretty easy to tell apart—just read the ones which valuable insight.
Apps are a major part of our lives, making it all the more important to discern which ones are safe and which ones aren’t. If you’ve downloaded an app that seems malicious, delete it and report it to the store. Similarly, you can help people determine good apps by leaving high ratings and substantial reviews.
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