How often have you been encouraged to ‘download the app!’? Be that your preferred online store, local coffee shop, or add-ons to your favourite social media sites. But apps are notorious for duping us, for appearing to be the real thing when they are actually harbouring malware.
So how do you spot a fake app from the real thing and save yourself from downloading an ‘unappy’ Christmas?
How to identify fake apps
Review the reviews. If the app rating is low with many users complaining about the service, it’s a red flag. But you should also be aware of positive reviews, as some of them can be fake. It’s worth checking reviews on separate sites, not just on the app store.
Look for obvious mistakes. App creators tend to write their descriptions with immense pride. If you spot any grammar mistakes or typographical errors, it’s reason enough to raise an eyebrow.
Images and screenshots. Malicious apps might use low-quality illustrations or photoshopped images. And double check it matches the genuine branding. If you are unsure, conduct a separate online search for images of the brand.
Links in emails. This is the preferred route for criminals – sending you an email with a link to download ‘their’ app. Be very careful about clicking any links in emails, especially those that give you time limits, or encourage you to act quickly without thinking.
Review permissions. If everything looks good and you decide to download the app, take the time to review the permissions it asks for. A compass wishing to access your contacts or a calculator asking for access to your gallery could be a warning sign.
Bonus point: It is also worth checking the app permissions in your phone’s settings to see if the apps you had already installed aren’t able to access more than they need.