What is the “cost” of free apps؟

RapidVPN/ June 13, 2019/ Blog/

Offering something for free is definitely one of the most effective models to attract customers. You don’t get much for free these days, so it is a pleasant surprise when something is labeled free. Let’s talk about the situation when that surprise becomes bitter.

Free does not mean safe. When we use our phones, we are spending a lot of time on apps and they are becoming more and more valuable to us. Popular apps can be fun and can help in various spheres of our lives, but they can give hackers access to our data. Mobile phones are expensive and contain massive amounts of personal information. Smartphone apps, especially those that are offered free of charge, pose a greater risk to our smartphones because as far as security threats are concerned, smartphones are more subtle to malware and malicious software than our desktops.

Malicious apps are not equally harmful. Some can track your location by monitoring GPS data and send this information to the third party while some can get the whole control of your device so that criminals can use your personal information in various ways for their personal benefits. Downloading an infected app could even turn your device into a bot. Your device can be placed under the control of some groups that can use it as a part of the larger attacks.

Malicious apps can collect information stored in the mobile device, so it can be used for malicious purposes; subscribe your phone to premium services without your consent, so you get unnecessary costs for unwanted services; it can download other malicious files and apps, so your device is vulnerable to more infection; gain complete control of the device and its functions, so your phone is exposed to more threats.

Although you can not identify which application represents the security risk for your phone, you need to be very careful about the security of your data. If you decide to download the app, especially free, here are some precautions for your smartphone:

  • Properly configure your smartphone security settings and location and use a password and the numeric PIN lock features of your smartphone.
    It is more likely that apps outside the market will be infected with malicious programming. Not all the apps are guaranteed as secure but downloading it from official app stores is a security-wise option. Official app stores invest their resources into security measures and provide consumers with added layers of security.

  • When downloading from within an app store, be aware that the store offers not only first-party apps, made by the vendor of your phone but also third-party apps made by someone other than the phone manufacturers. Download third-party apps mean that the maker of the app has access to your phone through the phone developer. So, take the time to get to know your source. The characteristics of a safe app-store are terms of service that are well developed, clear contact information and a troubleshooting FAQ and history of removing vendors with poor content.

  • It’s obvious that apps need to interact with the phone but if the app asks for access to a long list of information stored in your device that can be a signal that it is a malicious app. An app might ask for full network access, run at startup, location, take pictures and videos, read text messages but some apps ask for access to messages, phone call logs, and other personal information. Be careful in accepting requests for personal or device data. Before agreeing to permission ask yourself if the app really needs such access to your device. The fewer permissions an app requests, the more likely that it is safe.

  • Avoid web browsing on your smartphone. Today’s smartphones are like mini-PCs and they are exposed to the same threats. When browsing the web, you may run into malicious and phishing links and you may access a webpage that triggers the automatic download of a malware-infected app. Before downloading purchasing and installing an application you should install a mobile security app because it provides a certain degree of security.

  • Another downside of the free apps is that they usually are ad-supported which means that your device works more than apps without ads. It can shorten your battery life for one half. Think of that when you have to make an emergency call. Ad-supported apps diminish your phone performance. It places more demands on your phone’s processor and increases processing time, memory usage and CPU utilization. Then, you can expect increased data usage. Apps with ads use a lot more data then the free ones which are a major problem if you pay for data or have data a limit. Your bill can become an unpleasant surprise.

The phones became our helpers and even our companions. We do not appreciate them just how much they cost but how much they have become a big part of our everyday lives. Malicious people are aware of this, and they know that they can realize a personal gain, so our phones have taken part in their target pool. If you are offered something for free, consider how much will it cost. If you want to download a free app, ask yourself what is its real price. Installing a free app can cost you, not only your money but also your nerves. Do not learn this in a hard way.