In March 2019, over 250 million Android users downloaded dangerous malware that was hidden in apps. Malware has the ability to damage your device, as well as access other apps where it can steal important personal information, such as banking details. Google works tirelessly to prevent bad apps from getting onto the Play Store but knowing the signs can help to prevent you from downloading the ones that slip through.
One of the best things you can do to avoid installing or updating a dodgy app is to download from the Play Store only. Apps on here will show the Google Play Protect badge before downloading and updating apps. Google Play Protect constantly scans any Android devices to detect and alert you of any issues. It can only identify bad apps from the Play Store, which is why it’s the only place you should download apps from and not third-party websites. Check that your device is safe and has the Play Protect feature turned on by going into Settings > Google > Security > Google Play Protect. It will show the safety status of all apps and your device.
Google says that they remove 99% of bad apps before anyone ever downloads them. Despite Google’s best efforts, some bad apps will slip through and get onto the Play Store and downloaded. For example, a simple flashlight app turned out to be malware that stole people’s banking information, and gaming apps like Solitaire also had the same malware in them that millions of people had downloaded before it was spotted and removed from the Play Store. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your bank account to spot any fraudulent transactions and report them quickly. If you notice money missing from your account, see if it can be traced back to a recently installed app, especially finance apps that you’ve given banking information to or allowed it to access other apps and information on your device.
You may get a notification that an app needs updating urgently with a one-click option. Avoid this and instead go onto the Play Store and see if there is an update available this way. If there isn’t, it’s very likely to be a hacked app. Other signs of a bad app include spelling errors, bad logos and a poorly designed interface. Check reviews, comments, how many downloads the app has and the maker of it before downloading to get a clear picture of how trustworthy the app is. You’ll likely notice your device works differently to before installing a bad app, such as a lot slower or background apps stop working. In this case, remove the bad app immediately.
If you suspect a bad app in the Play Store, always report it to reduce the chance of anyone else downloading it. Look for the signs of a bad app, only download from the Play Store and remove any bad looking apps immediately to protect your device and information.
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