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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How To Safely Download Apps and Keep Your Data Private

Updated: Feb 21, 2021

If you own a smartphone and tablet, you can't avoid loading apps on your devices. Our gadgets would be useless if we didn't have those apps that helped us surf the web, navigate from point A to point B, and keep in contact with loved ones. In this age of cybercrime and data theft, you need to because of which apps you download. If you're not careful, that useful app you want could be malware or one that's designed to steal your personal data and sell it on the dark web. It goes without saying that one of the easiest ways to avoid dangerous apps is to simply not download them. Of course, that's easier said than done, so here are my tips to help you screen apps to avoid your devices from getting infected.

Smart devices are pretty secure and the most common way to infect your smart devices is to download an app. Like computers, the most common way you will get your devices infected is with user interaction. If you don't click on it, you will keep your devices safe. With that in mind, also do the following:

1. Use Only Official App Stores. The best thing you can do the keep your devices safe is to only download apps from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. Apple does an excellent job making sure all of the apps in their store are free from malicious apps that are designed to infect your devices. Google does a pretty good job of keeping the bad apples out (no pun intended), but you have to watch out because independent app developers can upload apps. For the most part, people just want their app to be found, but sometimes people will upload malicious apps which leads us to ...

2. Verify App Names and Publishers. When you visit the official app store, make you take the time to make sure the app you're about to download is from a legitimate source. Sometimes when an app becomes popular, it gets a lot of imitators and the imitations look like the real thing. Take a moment to do a Google search to make sure you download the 'official' app rather than a knock off that could be designed to infect your device and steal your data. Also, you want to read the reviews for apps. If a user was scammed or infected by an app, you can bet someone is going to take a time to leave a review.

3. Always read the Terms of Service. No one reads the Terms of Service, but you should. You want to look out for the section talks about the monetization of your data and data collection which give the app developer the right to collect and sell any information the app gathers from your smart devices. If you want to find out quickly what's in those Terms of Service, check out 'Terms of Service: Didn't Read at This wonderful website will let you see the basis of what app developers are doing with your information.

4 Disable App Permissions. Have you noticed that most apps ask permission to use portions of your smart devices like your camera or microphone when you're installing an app? Well, sometimes those apps actually need to use those pieces of hardware, like your social media apps. When you allow apps to get permission to access certain areas of your smartphone, you just open yourself up to trouble. Information like location and contacts aren't needed to use an app, so don't turn on permissions for them.

If you want to retroactively change your permissions for different apps, you can access them from the “Settings” menu on both Android and iOS. On Android, choose “Apps,” then choose the app you want to alter, then choose “App Permissions.” You can adjust which apps have access to what from here. On iOS, choose “Privacy” from the menu, then tap any entry to choose which apps get those permissions.

5. Install Only Essential Apps and Delete Old Ones Every Few Months. The fewer apps you have on your smart devices, you lessen the chances of you getting your data stolen or infected by malware. We all get into the habit of loading our devices with apps. App developers are constantly downloading updates and sometimes those updates can enable permissions to all areas of your phone. Next thing you know, that app you forget about is spying on you. Both Apple and Android will remove older apps that are seldom used, but it's always a good idea to delete those old apps of your phones and tablets.

6. Watch Out for the Warning Signs. When you install a bad app, it doesn't take long for you to find out that it's working against you. If you noticed that your devices don't stay charged as long, your data usage is higher than normal and your monthly bill has skyrocketed, you could have a bad app. Removing the app is all you need to do to prevent further problems, but keep a close eye on what you're installing to make sure you don't become a victim.

Most people don't understand how much of their personal information they share when they download the wrong programs on their devices. Always be aware of what apps you're downloading on your smart devices and make sure you keep on top of the warning signs when things go wrong so you can take immediate steps to keep your information safe.

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