If you’re downloading Android apps from unknown sources outside the Play Store, follow these tips to reduce the risk of malware.
Unlike Apple’s iOS, Android allows users to install apps from sources other than the official store. This feature is what attracts many of the people who use Android phones. The only catch is that apps from an unknown source have the potential to be dangerous. The lack of regulation means that the possibility of malware is much greater than an app from the Play Store.
If you want to download apps from outside of the Play Store, it is important to minimise the risk as much as possible.
1. Setting your device to allow apps from outside the Play Store
By default, your Android will only allow apps to be installed from the Play Store. If you try to install an app from elsewhere, you will see a message telling you that apps not from the Play Store are blocked due to security reasons.
It’s easy to turn that setting off though. Just go to Settings and then Security. There you should see a section called Device administration. In that section, tap the checkbox next to Unknown sources to allow the installation of apps not from the Play Store.
Changing this setting allows installation of apps from unknown sources
It’s worth noting here that “unknown sources” doesn’t really mean unknown in this instance. It just means not from the Play Store. You may know exactly where the app comes from, you may have even developed it yourself, but Android will still define it as coming from an unknown source.
Android’s warning about the risks of apps from unknown sources
Now that you have opened up a whole world of apps, how can you limit the risk of downloading apps from an unknown source?
2. Stick to trusted app stores or repositories
Do some research to decide which resources you can trust to provide apps that are safe for you to install and use e.g. the Amazon App Store. Think about it in the same way as you think of other kinds of shopping. There are certain shops you feel more comfortable buying from than others.
3. Watch out for warning signs
There are various things you can look out for, that might give a clue to an app potential dangerous. These include a lack of professionalism and an app asking for a lot of permissions. Read this article to learn more about how to spot dangerous apps.
4. Turn on the Verify apps setting
Google has provided a feature that helps to reduce the risk involved in downloading apps from unknown sources, called Verify apps. To access this, you’ll need to go to Google Settings (please note that this is a separate app from your phone’s main settings).
‘Verify apps’ can be turned on in Google Settings
In Google Settings, scroll down and tap on Security. In the Security menu, you will see the Verify apps heading. Tick the box next to Scan device for security threats. Turning this setting on means that Android will periodically scan your device’s apps for potential threats. It will also scan any new app you try to install from an unknown source.
Activate the ‘Verify apps’ feature to scan apps for malware
If it finds something potentially dangerous, you will receive a warning advising you to remove the suspicious app.
5. Install an antivirus app
Install an antivirus app so that you will be protected in case any malware-infected apps find their way onto your Android device. There are plenty of options for antivirus protection, including Security Warrior Antivirus, our own antimalware solution.
6. Keep your OS up to date
If a security flaw is found in Android it’s usually fixed in the following update, so it’s a good idea to install new versions of Android as they become available.