It’s common knowledge that Android devices aren’t foolproof when it comes to malware and viruses, but for the most part these threats are hiding in the back alleys of the operating system. You’re most likely to run into them when you start downloading apps from sketchy third-party app stores, or side-loading pirated APKs.
But here’s something scary. There is a family of apps containing malware just relaxing in Play Store, and they have multiplied at a decent pace during the last few years or so.
Last year, DCCI (Data Center of China Internet) released an investigation against various Android markets and found that 66.9 percent applications were tracking private data, and 34.5 percent of them were engaged in cross-border tracking; tracking information that has no relevancy to the app’s main permissions and not informing users about what is happening.
So what kind of data are these apps tracking from your android device? In short, everything -- from your phone book contacts and text message history to your account credentials. The fact that such apps are looking at your data even when it has nothing to do with the features provided should be a major concern.
Even more worrying is that the apps responsible may be different than the ones that you expect to breach your privacy. The report, for example, reveals that beauty and study apps are among the worst privacy offenders in case of location tracking, while travel apps top the list when it comes to swiping user contact information.
And this was just once instance where many applications were unethically crossing the line. A recent report cited by ComputerWeekly reveals that 79 percent of the clones released for the famous Flappy Bird game contained some form of malware.
These clones were doing more than just tracking user privacy; hackers used them to make phone calls without the consent of the user, extract list of contacts, install more applications and establish root gateway for control over everything on the device. Data-breaching criminals are finding success by manipulating the familiar features in mobile games and apps that users trust and recognize.
Taking measures to protect your personal identity
So, what can you do keep these app-stealing threats at bay? Before installing apps on your device, follow these best practices to ensure your personal information is not being compromised:
Utilize advanced internet security solutions: Advanced internet security solutions feature support for android and iOS devices. According to Trend Micro, some advanced solutions not only provide internet security virus warnings, they protect your android phone by identifying apps that steal your personal data. Further, they back up and store your information for retrieval in case a hacker is able to gain access to your device and wipe your data.
Review permissions: The next time you install an application on your device, take out a few minutes to read the app permissions for making sure your personal information is not shared with third parties. This kind of information is usually buried in the last few sentences.
Use official download channels: even though the Google Play consists of data-stealing applications, whatever you download through the official route would be much less harmful due to official policy procedures than downloading apps through third-party app stores and unofficial channels.
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