Is it Safe to Download Apps Outside of Google Play?
So, there's an Android app that looks cool, but it's not available on Google Play. Will downloading the app from a third-party store compromise your phone?
Your Android is set-up to only download its apps from the Google Play store. There are several reasons for this. Google does get 30% from every app sold, but their motivations go beyond financial profit. Downloading an app outside the Google Play store opens you up to security risks, such as ransomware and other nasty viruses. Google Play’s system of vetting apps before they go public is designed to help keep your phone safe from these threats. Still, malware can infect apps in the Play store. Click here to check your device for threats:
The Short Answer is: No, It’s Not Safe
Android users should know that downloading an app from outside Google Play is inherently unsafe. In late 2016, an estimated 1.3 million Android phones were attacked by a malware called “Gooligan.” How did Gooligan find its way onto these users’ phones, you ask? Through an app! More specifically, it was an app that wasn’t downloaded through the Google Play store.
Before a new app becomes available in the Google Play store, Google checks the app for malware and any other threats to Android users. If you download an app from elsewhere, these protective measures don’t exist.
If You Insist on Straying from Google Play
From a safety point of view, it’s unwise to encourage an Android user to download apps outside of Google Play. However, if you still insist on downloading unvetted apps, here are some safety measures you should follow:
- Know the download source. For instance, there is an option to download WhatsApp directly from the app’s official website. This is probably a safe source since WhatsApp is a well-known, trustworthy creator of apps.
- Read user reviews of the app before downloading. If you’re unsure of an app’s source, do your research. A few simple Google searches should lead you to other Android users’ reviews of the app.
- Remove the app immediately if you encounter suspicious activity. Any inkling of faulty or destructive behavior from the app? Delete it immediately! You don’t want to take more unnecessary risks with your phone’s security.