How to Spot a Fake App (and Keep your Mobile Safe)

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There are lots of counterfeit apps on the internet today. While some display annoying and intrusive ads, others can be very harmful and contain malicious codes to infiltrate your privacy.

Even apps on Google Play Store and Apple App Store are not exempted. Some of the apps contain malware and viruses that can steal your personal information. They could track your activities and also steal your credit card details. Therefore, don’t judge an app’s legitimacy because it is on the apple app store or Google play store.

Google engineers are continually working to remove fraudulent apps from their marketplace. The same applies to IOS apps. Both platforms have removed malicious applications ranging from games, antivirus, financial apps, etc. But you still have to take your personal security seriously and consider deploying the best android /IOS security practices.

Commenting on why users should take mobile security seriously today and how hackers lure people with malicious apps, Ali Qamar, Founder and editor at PrivacySavvy, a platform dedicated to making everyone using the internet privacy-oriented, told MrGadget,

Given the rise of all the cyber threats and the fact that 72% of people use mobile devices to access the internet today, making mobile security needs to be everyone’s priority.

And fake apps are one of the most used crooks’ methods to trick users into letting them get inside their phones. Typically, such apps would get to you via Google Play and Apple App Store when you download customized tools or games.”

The truth is that cybercriminals are continually trying every means to install fake/fraudulent apps into your device. These hoodlums also implant fake apps into your devices through email attachments, links, and banners.

Sometimes, they can also trick you into downloading malicious apps by creating counterfeit apps of reputable brands.

This article shows how to identify fake apps and protect your devices from possible infiltration.

What are Fake Applications?

Fake apps are applications that do not perform only the services they advertise. Some of them may offer services different from what they advertised, but they still have hidden agendas.

Also, some fake apps can offer services you would hardly find anywhere else just to tempt you. Some counterfeit apps offer remote spying abilities, antivirus services, cleaners, and lots more. These offers usually tempt users to download and install on their devices.

But instead of working as you expect, they cause a lot of harm through your device. They can track your location, throw ads on your device screen, grant themselves extended permissions, harvest your contacts, etc.

In some cases, their activities can crash your device, harm your data, and intrude into your privacy. Fake applications are often of three broad categories, namely.

  • Harmful Applications: These applications may do what they say but are embedded with malicious codes to carry out harmful attacks. These apps can range from games, medical applications, weather applications, sports applications, screen grabbers, and so much more.
  • Imposters: Scammers are known to create fake applications that mimic trusted and reputable brands. They look like real apps and functions, almost like the real ones with the same look and processes. But they house malicious codes that can hack your device, harvest information, track all of your activities, etc.
  • Illicit content apps: These types of applications promote illegal and illicit content. They promote violence, guns, hate speech, pornography, conspiracies, and others. Some of them also redirect you to an inappropriate and harmful website where harmful cookies can be installed on your device.

How to Identify Fake Apps Easily?

There are simple ways to spot a fake app, no matter the marketplace where you find it.

  1. Confirm the developers’ details: Before downloading any app, find out what you can about the developers. Check if they have released other apps and what users are saying about them. Don’t just depend on their names because cybercriminals can manipulate that too. If their names and details are shady, the app is a fake
  2. Read app reviews: customers’ reviews go a long way to expose developers and manufacturers’ nefarious intentions. If the number of complaints is higher than likes, run away. But note that some fakers can drop positive reviews too. So, pay attention to those too.
  3. Pay attention to the permission: A legitimate app will not ask to access details that are irrelevant to its functions. Imagine where a WhatsApp app is asking permission to access your bank alerts. That’s a dark red flag.
  4. Check the total downloads: If a popular app has few downloads, then there’s something fishy there. It’s like saying that few people are downloading WhatsApp when you know that almost everybody uses the app. So, if that’s the case with your target app, it’s a fake
  5. Pay attention to the description and images: Low-quality images and ambiguously-written description is a red flag to consider. A legitimate developer would describe his/her app in clear and readable English sentences, not broken and meaningless block of texts.
  6. Evaluate the search results: Scammers mimic legitimate apps down to using the same icons. So when you search for an app and see different icons that look the same, check the names instead.

The Most Targeted Types of Applications

Hackers would most often target popular applications because it significantly increases the chances of getting more installs. Here are the most targeted types of applications around the world today

  • Financial Apps: In the US and worldwide, financial applications is one of the most used. They have direct access to a user’s fund; therefore, criminals would often create fake banking apps to trick people. Lately, the use of digital currency is on a dramatic rise. That’s why more scammers are targeting financial applications in other to steal funds from users.
  • Covid-19 Apps: Covid-19 is a trending topic around the world today, and there are a lot of fake Covid-19 apps. They take advantage of the pandemic to create malicious applications that can harvest information and destroy your device. Due to the increased number of fake Covid-19 apps, Apple has stopped accepting Covid-19 applications from individuals and organizations. It only accepts covid-19 apps from the government and health agencies.
  • Games: Gaming applications are one of the most popular apps on the internet today. They are very addictive, and it attracts millions of installs all around the world. Hackers are taking advantage of gaming apps’ huge popularity to create their own fakes versions to harm users’ devices and compromise personal information.
  • Updates: Everyone wants to know what the traffic update is. People want to be the first to hear about breaking news, reminders, and a whole lot more. There are many fake and intrusive applications on the internet and portray to give updates but with malicious intent. Furthermore, some apps would redirect you to illegal donation sites, subscription sites, and so much more. You should be on the lookout for these kinds of applications.

How to Protect Yourself against Fake Applications

Download Apps from the Official Market Place

There is absolutely no doubt that fake apps can find their way to the google play store and the app store. However, the chances of downloading one through the official market are significantly lower than downloading on websites and third-party stores.

Published Date

Legitimate apps can be published recently, but the most renowned and popular applications have existed for many years. Therefore you should always check the published date of an app before installing.

Use a VPN Service

A virtual private network can tremendously protect you against malicious attacks. It encrypts your traffic and tunnels it through secured networks. A reputable VPN service would also warn you against fake apps before you install them.

Furthermore, it can eliminate fake apps from your device if one is already installed. You should be careful of random VPN’s because some of them are fake VPN service. Some of them are malicious and would damage your device and steal sensitive information from you. Therefore you should opt only for a reputable VPN service such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or SurfShark.

Links, Pop-ups, and Banners

Exercise caution while clicking on links, pop-ups, and banners. Some of them can redirect you into malicious websites where fakes applications can be installed on your device. Watch out for links encouraging you to update your device, watch out for banners that may pose as your financial service providers, and also watch out for pup-ups asking you to clean your device.

Update Your Device

The system, as well as software vulnerabilities, can lead to hack and device compromise. Outdated OS and applications can lead to vulnerabilities, and hackers would take advantage of it. You should always update your applications and device OS to eliminate vulnerabilities.

Final Notes

Viruses and malware harm your device, steal sensitive information from you and redirect you to harmful content.

Tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook have dedicated personals and systems that look out for fake applications on the internet to eliminate them.

Google is also doing its part to delete fake applications from its search engine and the play store. Also, Apple is doing the same on its App Store. But cybercriminals are relentless, and they dish out fake applications every day.

So, while tech companies are trying their best, try to take your personal security seriously. If you value your safety, it is essential to consider taking the steps listed above to detect fake apps and avoid them. You should also opt for the services of a reputable VPN service to detect and eliminate counterfeit apps from your device.




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