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Avoiding Android App Cooties | The Gadget Consultant

Freddy Cloud

Frederick (“Freddy”) Cloud has had a passion for all things electronic since he “accidently” caused the class Commodore PET to malfunction in 8th grade. “I swear. I didn’t do it on purpose” He was quoted as saying to a very unhappy computer teacher... Read his full bio

Avoiding Android App Cooties

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I was perusing the Internet when I stumbled upon this headline:

“Android accounted for 97 percent of all malicious mobile activity in 2013”

Shocking? Almost certainly it is. If all you saw was that Android accounted for 97% of all mobile malware, then yeah, that’s pretty disconcerting and you’d probably be on your way to the Apple Store. But it’s not the entire story …

I mentioned before that Android is considered open source, which means anyone can take Android and make a cellphone. And a lot of small companies that you and I may never encounter do just that. The caveat to that is just because you CAN take Android and make a phone does NOT mean that you’ll have access to Googles services, like Maps and more importantly Google Play, which is where you can download apps from. Like Apple and Amazon, Google monitors its Play store for applications that do bad things, like hijack your phone or send your information to the bad people. When they find them, they kill the app, and if you have it on your phone Google has the ability to remove it or to at least let you know that YOU should remove it ASAP. That headline (which was the actual headline, by the way) only tells part of the story. The REST of the story is that only 0.1% of those evil applications came from the Google Play. Where did the rest come from? Let’s talk about side loading …

Sometimes you may come upon an application that you want to install, but it may not be listed on Google Play as compatible with your device, or may not be there at all. No problem … just get the .apk files from someone, and install it on your phone or tablet. In places like Saudi Arabia and India that’s how they’re installing quite a few of their applications. Without Google, or anyone for that matter, monitoring the applications for malicious code, there’s no telling what they’re putting on their device. According to F-Secure, 75% of the reported malicious application incidents originated from those two places alone. The United States only accounted for 5%, but again, we have access to Google Play.

So, how do you avoid downloading apps with cooties? The easiest way is to NOT side load applications onto your phone. On most Android phones the option to install applications from unknown sources isn’t selected. Yes, you can change this, but unless you know and trust the source, I’d advise against it. There may be a few apps that slip through the cracks, but they’re usually … uhm … “questionable” … applications, or something that there are already 100 of in Google Play, like a wallpaper app. If the reviews are questionable or it hasn’t been downloaded that much, you may want to look elsewhere. There are a lot of bad people out there … that kitty wallpaper app isn’t worth your information being compromised. Stay smart, stay safe …

 

Freddy C.

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