Play Store is home to millions of android apps. Generally, apps on play store are considered as safe by many users. This is true to some degree, as unlike computers, mobile apps cannot access other app’s data or harm the system. That being said, not all apps are safe enough to be installed on one’s phone. Apps in play store commonly have the following problems.
- Adware: Too many ads, ads in lock screen or even while using other apps
- Scam apps: Apps having false claims.
- Data collecting: Apps stealing your data, asking ridiculous permissions and misusing them.
Many apps are found to employ multiple or all three of the above malpractices. Surprisingly, some of them are popular and used by many.
Although there are problems with some apps, you do not need a dedicated antivirus app to safeguard your phone. Android app security works on a permission based model. Moreover, apps run in sandboxed mode meaning they cannot access data of other apps. All you have to do is make sure an app asks for relevant permissions and not give unnecessary permissions like contacts permission for a calculator app.
Besides, due to the model of android as stated above, antivirus apps can barely do anything. Installing and running an antivirus app will just end up consuming your memory, battery and storage resources. On the other hand, there are many shady apps disguised as antivirus apps like CM security.
Boosters apps (Battery, RAM)
This is a myth that many people believe in. There is absolutely no way for these apps to boost battery or memory. Your device keeps a cache for keeping records of most frequently used apps and operations to load them instantly when you need them. These apps clear this cache which makes loading of these frequently used apps slow. Though it may seem to user that some memory is freed, it will consume more battery and also make apps slow to load in the long run.
Additionally, these apps run continuously on background consuming memory and battery life themselves. They use cheap UI tricks like turning your battery icon green, launching a toy rocket with animations, etc while simultaneously feeding you tons of ads. Don’t fall for these apps.
Browsers (UC, Dolphin, Puffin)
Play store is flooded with browser apps, be careful which you install though. UC Browser, for example, has been discovered to have privacy and security issue, exposed 500 million of its users to attacks and also was once temporarily removed from play store.
Games targeted to children
There are thousands of games targeted toward children and are notorious for adware. Since young ones readily skip ads and are not well informed, it makes them the most susceptible group. Such games are not only ad-infested but also send junk notifications, draw ads over other apps, store ads cache eating up storage and so on. Google frequently removes many adware and malware from play stores and most of those apps come from this category.
Of course, there are games that are safe too but since majority of games employ such malpractices one should be very careful while installing such apps.
Apps from companies like Cheetah and DU mobile.
Chinese companies have a very bad reputation for handling user data. One of their common tactics is to buy popular apps on play store. QuickPic was one of such apps with millions of downloads but after being bought from Cheetah mobile it started to send user data to the company’s servers. The problem is that Cheetah mobile wrote in its privacy note that users pictures were completely safe and they do not send any data. These tactics make such companies very hard to trust.
CM security (antivirus) app, DU battery booster and other of their scam apps also had millions of download before Google recently took actions over Cheetah Mobile removing almost all their apps.
Things to look out for.
By design, Android severely limits the harm an app can do to your device. Apps run in sandbox mode meaning they can’t access other apps data and harm the system. For malware, you just have to pay attention to permissions you are giving to any apps. Never give any permission that you think an app should not need.
Adwares request permissions like “draw over other apps” and “Airpush notifications”. Avoid allowing sensitive permissions like location, call history, contacts, etc to any apps and revoke permission after the use. You can even use apps like Bouncer for automating this.
Similarly, read permissions even when updating apps. Read reviews and also check developers’ website. If you are unsure about any app search that app in google and also see the news sections. There are also many android communities on the internet for getting such information.