7 Strategies to Identify Counterfeit Mobile Apps

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7 Strategies to Identify Counterfeit Mobile Apps

So, you’ve just downloaded a new mobile game, cryptocurrency wallet, or fitness app, but something seems off. Your phone is now inundated with irritating ads, the app isn’t functioning as expected, and to make matters worse, an unauthorized transaction appears on your bank account.

Chances are, the app you downloaded might be after your money or sensitive information. With the vast amount of data accessible through smartphones, cybercriminals often target these devices, especially in third-party app stores.

According to the ESET Threat Report T3 2022, the number of Android threats spiked by 57% in the last months of 2022, driven by a significant 163% increase in adware and an 83% growth in HiddenApps detections.

Fortunately, you can steer clear of malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) by being cautious and conducting due diligence. The tips below will help you identify a potentially dubious app from afar and restore your phone’s security if you’ve inadvertently downloaded one.

How to Spot a Fake App:

  1. Check the Numbers:
    • Be wary if an app, claiming to be widely popular, has significantly fewer downloads than expected. Imposter apps often capitalize on the surge in popularity of a legitimate app or service.
  2. Read the Reviews:
    • Poor ratings or overly similar glowing reviews can be red flags. Be cautious, especially if the app doesn’t have millions of downloads, as fake reviews might be the work of bots.
  3. Check the Visuals:
    • If something feels off about the app’s color or logo, compare them to the visuals on the official service provider’s website. Malicious apps often mimic legitimate counterparts but may have subtle differences.
  4. Double-check “Official App” Claims:
    • Ensure that a mobile app associated with a popular online service is officially available. Check the service’s official website for links to the app on Google Play Store and/or Apple App Store.
  5. Check the App’s Name and Description:
    • Legitimate developers maintain professionalism, even in app descriptions. Look for poor grammar or inconsistent details, as these can indicate an app’s lack of authenticity.
  6. Check the Developer’s Pedigree:
    • Exercise caution with apps from unknown developers. Verify the developer’s track record and search for their name online to ensure legitimacy.
  7. Look Out for Excessive App Permissions:
    • Avoid apps that demand unnecessary user permissions. For instance, a flashlight app doesn’t need extensive admin rights or access to core device functionality.

7 Tips for Staying Safe:

  1. Stick to Official App Stores:
    • Use Google Play and Apple App Store to avoid potential risks associated with third-party stores.
  2. Avoid Clicking Unverified Links:
    • Exercise caution with links sent via social media messages or emails.
  3. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA):
    • Implement 2FA on accounts, especially those containing valuable data.
  4. Keep Software Updated:
    • Regularly update your phone’s operating system and apps.
  5. Choose Reputable Apps:
    • Opt for apps from developers committed to improvement, security, and bug fixes.
  6. Secure Your Device:
    • Use a secure passcode or biometric features to protect your device.
  7. Use Mobile Security Software:
    • Employ reliable mobile security software to enhance protection.

By following these strategies and safety tips, you can minimize the risks associated with downloading counterfeit apps and safeguard your mobile device effectively.