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How to spot fake apps on Google Play Store

Here is how you can spot fake apps before it’s too late.

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Today, apps are everywhere – right from smartphones to smartwatches, laptops and TV. In fact, the app ecosystem is something that completes these devices. And whether it is an Android phone or an iOS device, or a Windows machine, there are a lot of free apps that you can download. This is true for all categories, right from shopping and productivity to entertainment and games. And with free apps, there are problems with fake apps. Also Read - 4% Indian users hit by banking Trojans in 2018: Kaspersky Lab

Google has added a number of security checks in the Play Store to spot and remove counterfeit apps. Yet, there are times when imposter apps still make their way to the Play Store. Time and again, whenever such apps are reported, Google removes them. But some still remain undetected. Also Read - Google removes 28 fake apps from Play Store after a report by Quick Heal

What’s the point of fake apps?

While some of these apps display annoying banner ads, others could pose a serious threat. There are apps that contain malware that can steal your personal information, such as contacts, read your messages and more. Some also gain access to your storage, cameras and more. Then there are scammers that could benefit by reading bank account and credit card information. Also Read - Cyber criminals tricking consumers into downloading fake apps: Kaspersky report

A few months ago, Trend Micro had spotted banking malware apps on Google Play that used motion sensors to hide detection. The trick would allow them to stay undetected when emulators were run to detect such malware attacks. In fact, in 2018, Kaspersky Lab detected that 4 percent Indian users were hit by banking Trojans. These apps would allow attackers access to bank account number, passwords and allow them to transfer funds. There are some tricks to spot fake apps and stay away from them. Here’s how.

How to spot fake apps on Google Play Store

Step 1: When you search for an app on the Play Store, there may appear to be more than one app with a similar name. The difference between them is generally spelling mistakes in the name and description. Ensure that you read the description about the app to spot these errors before downloading.

Step 2: When you are checking the app description page, look for tags like “Editor’s Choice” and “Top Developer” as these are less likely to be duplicate apps. You can also visit the publisher website to extra careful before downloading it.Check for the publisher

Step 3: When download popular apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, PUBG Mobile, and more, the download count will definitely be higher. However, if an app has downloads of around 5,000 or less, chances of it being a fake app are higher. 

Step 4: Another way to be sure about an app is to check the screenshots. A fake app is likely to have weird wordings and strange photos in screenshots. Similarly, checking for reviews and ratings will give you an idea as to what users think about it after downloading and using it.

Step 5: Next, look at the app publish date. If it is a new app by a popular company, it will obviously have a recent publish date. But mostly fake apps have recent publish date, whereas a genuine app will have “updated on” date. 

Step 6: Lastly, this is the most important aspect when looking for fake apps. Look at the permissions that app is asking for. Say you downloaded a third-party messaging app, it will need permission to phone book, dialler and maybe storage for backup. But if it is asking permissions for camera, audio and more, there is a reason to worry. Also, ensure that you don’t give such permissions to the app.

With the help of these above tips, you can easily spot fake apps and stay away from them. And for more such tips and tricks, follow our dedicated how-to section here.

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  • Published Date: January 8, 2020 10:56 AM IST

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