How to tell mal­ware apps from the real thing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By VOLKER BUDINGER

IT Is no se­cret that not ev­ery­thing in app stores is re­ally use­ful. some apps are filled with ad­ver­tis­ing, oth­ers are badly coded and yet oth­ers are ac­tu­ally the work of scam­mers and cy­ber­crim­i­nals.

so how do you tell the good apps from the bad?

“A good in­di­ca­tor are the app re­views that users post in the Google Play store or the Ap­ple App store,” says Matthias Becker from Chip magazine. The re­views deal with an app’s strengths and weak­nesses from a user’s per­spec­tive.

Markus Burgdorf from the con­sult­ing firm App Agency also con­sid­ers these rat­ings to be valu­able. “It helps to look at the screen­shots, read the de­scrip­tion text of the app care­fully and then read the re­views,” he says. Of course, one should be aware that some re­views can be fake.

An­other way to eval­u­ate the trust­wor­thi­ness of an app is to con­sider what per­mis­sions it looks for. “A cal­cu­la­tor app can be good, but if it wants ac­cess to my ad­dress book I won’t in­stall it,” Becker says.

se­cu­rity, pri­vacy and sta­bil­ity are the hall­marks of a good app, says sven Rill, pro­fes­sor of mo­bile com­put­ing at the Univer­sity of Ap­plied sciences in Hof, Ger­many.

“In the best case sce­nario, the app does with­out in­tru­sive ad­ver­tis­ing, doesn’t overdo in-app pur­chase of­fers and lim­its the per­mis­sions it de­mands to a min­i­mum,” he says.

“A good app makes my ev­ery­day life eas­ier and doesn’t make it any more com­pli­cated,” Burgdorf says.

“There are of­ten a large num­ber of apps, up to 80%, that are of­fer­ing the same func­tion­al­ity,” Rill says. “Whether one of these is suc­cess­ful de­pends on the re­main­ing 20%.”

The ap­pli­ca­tion should match its stated pur­pose, the pro­fes­sor says: “For ex­am­ple, a shop­ping list app does not need a nav­i­ga­tion func­tion.”

Of­ten you just have to try out an app to see if it’s any good. But you should be aware of pit­falls – “some apps are of­fered ‘free’ but in re­turn they col­lect user data which is then used by the provider,” Rill warns.

There are also apps that prom­ise to un­lock cer­tain fea­tures in re­turn for a good rat­ing or which make money from users via hid­den sub­scrip­tions, says app ex­pert Burgdorf. Es­pe­cially in games, there’s a risk of spend­ing too much on in-app pur­chases.

And there’s also the dan­ger of fake apps. “suc­cess­ful apps are of­ten faked,” Burgdorf says. In those cases the name of a gen­uine app is slightly changed and screen­shots and de­scrip­tions copied from the orig­i­nal list­ing. such apps are of­ten free but stuffed with ads or else don’t work at all.

some apps are re­ally mal­ware try­ing to col­lect smart­phone data or make money by send­ing ex­pen­sive text mes­sages. Becker ad­vises cau­tion if an app sounds too good to be true. “If an app prom­ises to make mo­bile In­ter­net turbo-fast you should first care­fully read the app de­scrip­tion and the user re­views.” — dpa

Be wary of apps that re­quest ex­ces­sive per­mis­sions. For in­stance, a cal­cu­la­tor app should not be want­ing ac­cess to your ad­dress book. — dpa

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