Do third-party app stores pose a threat to mobile security?

Android Malware

Malware detected on Android

Over time, we’ve noticed the presence of some fairly heated user debates disputing the necessity of security or antivirus apps for Android devices. This could have been sparked by our recent post which argues that you can’t always rely on the security of Google Play or because of the myth that antivirus companies create viruses to sell more software.

Certain security gurus claim that if users stick to downloading and purchasing apps using only the Google Play Store, nothing bad will happen to their devices. However, we found that this line of thinking is not 100% correct, as was demonstrated through the discovery of a rogue Dubsmash app or in the infamous case of apps on Google Play posing as games and infecting millions of users with adware. Despite these findings, there are some users who still feel that they’re safe whenever using Google Play. This feeling of false security could have negative consequences; for example, when your data or financial information is stolen or when you have to resort to resetting your device in order to cleanse it of malware.

So, we know we can’t rely on the Google Play Store all the time, but are third-party stores more secure? Of course not. In this case, how is it still possible that it’s not a problem to use third-party stores? First of all, it’s necessary to point out that there are certain legitimate and clean third-party stores, such as Amazon and FDroid. At the same time, there are tons of shady stores and even more black market .apk files promising to deliver you the latest features of a cracked app.

With these things in mind, how can users navigate the world of third-party stores?

Android's default .apk handler

Android default apk handler

Besides the well known (and default) security options of Android, there is another useful feature that remains more or less unknown by average users: the default app feature. When Android (and also Windows) is about to open a file, it looks into its database to determine which application should be used and launches it. If you set Avast Mobile Security to be run at this preliminary stage of an app’s installation, it will scan the .apk file before it is opened and the installation process has begun. If any mistake or bug is detected, the process is halted and you’ll be given the option to uninstall the app.

If you have already installed Avast in your Android smartphone or tablet and this option is no longer shown, the easiest option will be to uninstall it, reboot and install it again. When the dialog pops up, choose Avast as your default handler for .apk files. As mobile malware reached the one million Android sample mark last year, the Avast database continues to grow exponentially. Avast Mobile Security also performs very well with new and unknown malware, as independent tests show us.

You can be safer and have a complete peace of mind while using third-party stores if you keep Avast Mobile Security running as your default installation package app. Download Avast Mobile Security for free on the Google Play Store.

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