Malicious Apps & How to Spot One

It’s safe to say that, at this point, there is an app for every conceivable need, thanks to the explosion of mobile apps that has followed the widespread use of smartphones. But unfortunately, there are a lot of malicious apps among the many helpful ones, and sadly no app store is safe from them. Luckily, there are ways to spot these malicious apps.

What Makes an App Malicious?

Although many applications exist that could be hacked, they often don’t have malicious purposes. For example, hackers attempting to gather location data may intercept any app that collects location data. Despite their risky appearance, these apps weren’t intentionally created to hurt users. On the other hand, malicious apps are primarily designed to steal data from the user who installs them or to control the device they are installed on.

How to Spot Malicious Apps

Here are a few tips that will help you recognize malicious apps on app stores.

1. Check for Inappropriate Permissions

The list of permissions a program requests is the clearest indication that it is hazardous and should not be installed. On a mobile device, an application often needs a certain set of permissions to function. For example, a camera app will need permission before it can take pictures and movies with the device’s camera.

However, you should be concerned if you’re installing a game that doesn’t involve recording videos but somehow the app still requests permission to access the camera. Verify that the necessary permissions are in line with the function of the app. If not, try finding a different app.

2. Look Up the Contact Emails

A contact email address should be listed on the app developer’s profile if you look it up. A contact address created with a free service like Gmail or Yahoo! would never be provided by a professional developer. If the email address ends in or a comparable domain, you are either dealing with a highly poor developer or malicious software.

Even if the software wasn’t harmful, the developers are probably not giving it their best effort. Therefore it will probably be of low quality. On the other hand, some apps won’t offer any contact information, which is another cause for concern. So you can assume that the software is not as trustworthy as you would want if there is no contact email at all.

3. Read the App’s Description & Reviews

Poorly written descriptions are a common feature of malicious apps intended to con users and steal their personal information. If there’s no app description or the information is vague with lots of grammatical errors, chances are the app is malicious. Additionally, if you find foul language or low-quality images, it’s best to stay away from the app altogether.

A legitimate app will also have a ton of real customer ratings and reviews. If an app has almost no ratings or reviews that seem to have been copied and pasted, this could be a red flag. No matter how well-made an app is, there should always be a healthy mix of positive and negative reviews highlighting things that need work. Therefore, if the app’s review section is all praise, it was probably manufactured to deceive you.

4. Pay Attention!

Use firewalls, data monitors, and strong passwords to secure your devices. Steer clear of public WiFi and websites that host third-party apps.

Make sure you only download trusted programs from legitimate app stores, and remove any apps that seem suspicious, such as those with unusual permission requests or greater data usage, right away to protect yourself against attack.

At Grand Technology Solutions, our team of security experts can help keep you one step ahead of cybercriminals. To learn more, give us a call at (904) 606-6011 or email


Paul May