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New Research Highlights the Dangers of Downloading Mobile Apps this Holiday Season

RiskIQ Finds That 4% of Android Apps Containing the Most Popular App Names are Blacklisted

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As consumers get to grips with their new and second-hand Android smartphones and tablets gifted over the holiday season, many of them risk downloading malicious apps without realizing it.

New research from digital risk management leader RiskIQ discovered that 4% of the apps containing the same title as the 20 most popular apps of 2018 are blacklisted, i.e., have been flagged by one or more security vendors as containing malware or nuisance-ware such as unwanted ad servers. While many appear to be complementary to the official apps, there is a risk of downloading a malicious imposter in the rush to build out an app portfolio.

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RiskIQ analyzed over 18 million apps across 168 app stores and found that out of the 140,876 Android apps containing the 20 most popular app names in the title, only 9% (13,979) were from the official developers. Shockingly, 4% (6,101) were blacklisted. While 94% of the blacklisted apps were found on secondary Android app stores, an average of 17 different stores per title, 6% (348) were hosted on the Google Play store.

Whether receiving a new mobile device for the holidays or a hand-me-down from someone else getting a new device, users should exercise caution when downloading apps. They should stick to official app stores where possible but be aware that malicious apps can lurk there too. Here are three simple tips to follow before downloading any app.

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  1. Look at the developer name – does it look legitimate? If unsure, research it before proceeding.
  2. Look at the number of downloads if available as well as any posted reviews.
  3. Look at the permissions the app is requesting during installation. Do they look reasonable for the tasks the app needs to perform?  If in doubt, don’t proceed.

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