Fake Apps: How to avoid them?

Today, when billions of people own smartphones, mobile apps became the most popular type of software. You can find all kinds of apps: some focus on entertainment, while others prioritize convenience. However, most of them are designed to make our lives easier and provide us with all sorts of benefits.

With that said, you should be aware that cybercriminals always come up with new ways for breaching devices and stealing data. One of the most popular methods to do so is adding fake apps into stores or mimicking popular ones. Hence, you can find counterfeit products such as unreliable versions of popular social media apps or other digital services. Do not hesitate to learn how to recognize fake apps and prevent them from stealing your data.

What are fake apps?

Fake apps are pretty much what their name suggests. They are apps designed to look and feel like real apps. Sadly, instead of providing users with what they expect, they are used to steal information and track user activity. They are designed to look like the real deal hoping to trick users into downloading them. However, while many counterfeit apps will mimic reputable products, it is not the only course of action. Unique applications can also conceal shady activities or have malicious code embedded within them.

Once the apps are downloaded and installed, they infect the device with malicious actions that include everything from annoying ads, stealing information, and even diverting payments from legitimate websites. Some fake apps go a step further and can completely take over a device in seconds. The people behind the app then hold your device ransom until you pay them to unlock it once again. One such incident involved fake COVID-19 apps, claiming to alert users when people nearby test positive, or recommending best options to buy N-95 masks. If users were to download such applications, their smartphones or computers would be corrupted by malware. And no ordinary malware: ransomware, demanding ransoms to unlock devices.

Dangers of installing fake apps

If you make the mistake of installing a fake app on your device, you leave your device completely unprotected, leading to all kinds of issues. Here’s a quick overview of the dangers of installing fake apps.

1. Madware And Spyware

Madware stands for mobile adware, and it usually involves a small script or part of code hidden within the app you download. Once the app has been installed, it collects the data used to help companies target you with the right ads.

Spyware works similarly, but instead of sending data directly to companies, it collects data that is later sold for large amounts of money, again for advertising purposes. However, it can lead to other problems as it also tracks your location, contacts, internet usage, and so on.

2. Viruses and Trojans

Viruses and Trojans are one of the oldest forms of stealing data. They can hijack your mobile device once installed. Trojans and viruses are often hidden within fake apps, and once you install them, they mine sensitive information such as bank account data and so on. Some viruses even send premium text messages to steal your money directly.

3. Drive-by Downloads

All malware that gets installed on your device without you knowing is called a drive-by downloads. Your device could install one of these apps by simply opening the wrong email or visiting a malicious website. That includes adware, malware, and spyware, as well as more advanced files such as bots that use your phone without you knowing.

4. Browser Exploits

Browser exploits can also harm the way you use your device. These files can completely change your homepage or search page with another search engine that can track your online activity and suggest search results that might be unsafe and harmful.

5. Phishing Apps

Phishing is another method of stealing user information that dates back to the mid-1990s. The practice is still the same; it has simply changed form. Criminals today use fake apps to mimic popular apps aimed to steal information such as passwords, accounts, and so on.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Mobile security threats are always lurking just behind the corner, so you should do everything you can to prevent your device from being threatened. Here are a few useful tips you should try today:

  1. Keep your device updated and always get the newest software version as soon as possible, as that will make it much harder for hackers to breach your device.
  2. Get some type of smartphone security software such as anti-virus and anti-malware apps.
  3. Set up a firewall to keep your online activities much safer.
  4. Download apps only from official app stores such as Google Play and Apple App Store. Avoid using third-party sources as downloads from there could lead to serious security issues.
  5. Install a VPN on Android device to stay hidden when you browse. It makes it much harder for hackers (or other eavesdroppers) to pinpoint your IP address and track your online actions.
  6. Read the end-user agreements before installing an app because many available apps ask for very questionable permissions, such as monitoring your calendar, contacts, and camera.

The Bottom Line

Even though you might not have anything to hide, you should always use all available options to protect your device from cybercriminals. One wrong move or download could have a significant impact on your everyday life, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Install anti-virus tools, advanced firewalls, and use VPN services to keep your online activities private at all times. Lastly, avoid visiting suspicious websites and downloading apps from third-party online stores, and you should be just fine.

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