How to download secure Android apps

Many people continue to download apps from unknown platforms. Here's how to do to reduce the risks of installing malware on Android

Despite Google's relentless efforts, Android continues to be targeted by hackers, adept at tricking both users and sometimes even the green robot's store control systems. So how do you go about downloading secure apps to Android devices?

Let's start with a general consideration: most malware - that is, malicious programs - land on smartphones running on Mountain View's operating system because of users themselves. As is well known, one of Android's strengths - which can also turn into a weakness - is that it allows downloading applications from sources alternative to the Play Store. APKs (compressed installation files) from unofficial sources are likely to contain some form of virus. The reason is simple. Google checks, before giving the green light, that an app from its market is safe, i.e. it doesn't include malware. On the contrary, there is no certainty that the APK file downloaded from the internet is harmless.

Use the Google Play Store

The main advice for downloading safe apps on Android, therefore, is to use the Play Store (although some malware does manage to bypass Google's controls in some cases). Or at most resort to reliable and official platforms to download a program.

Enable App Verification

If you really, for a number of reasons, need to download a particular app from unknown platforms, you should be especially careful. Here's how to reduce the risks.

First thing: check that "App Verification" is turned on. What's that? It is a system, similar to an antivirus, that allows you to verify that the apps you have installed are safe. All of them. Including those downloaded from unofficial markets. Also, with the launch of Play Protect, the security tool has been further improved.

How does it work? The service continuously scans your apps, looking for possible threats. Even among the ones you're about to download. In case of an "anomaly", App Verification will warn the user, who will have to decide whether or not to continue with the installation. In the most serious cases, the system will automatically block and delete the dangerous software.

Read Permissions

Attention, then, to permissions.

As you know, all apps, to land on Android, must specify what data they access. If an e-book app, just to give you an example, needs GPS or asks you to read the contacts' address book to work, it should make you a little suspicious. If in doubt, don't download the program.

Download an antivirus

Downloading an antivirus on Android - although some experts express some doubts about the effectiveness of these programs - can prove useful especially if you often install apps from unofficial sources. In addition to Google's protection system, an antivirus could, in fact, provide your smartphone with an extra layer of security. They scan apps before they're downloaded and block them if they're dangerous.