Risks of Third-Party Apps

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you’re most likely already familiar with the process of purchasing and downloading apps from your device’s recognized app store. But did you know you can buy unregulated apps from third-party app stores? Often these apps have been designed to circumnavigate restrictions and streamline everyday operations, so it’s understandable that people might be keen to try them out. While the vast array of content that can be found via third-party app stores may be appealing, downloading apps from anywhere other than your pre-installed app store can come with risks.

In this blog we’ll take a look at some of the risks that come with installing apps from third-party sources, and how to protect yourself against them.

Common Threats and Vulnerabilities

What is a third-party app? Technically, any app that isn’t made by the same company as your device itself is considered to be a third-party app. While many of these are well-known, accessible through standard app stores, and seen as reliable, they’re not the only third-party apps people are downloading. Also referred to as non-native apps, they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from project management tools to games or editing software.

Here are some of the common threats associated with third-party app security:

  • Fake apps – third-party app stores may have counterfeit versions of legitimate apps, popular apps. These apps are sometimes created with the specific purpose of tricking unsuspecting users into downloading, only to then infect their device with malware or malicious code.
  • Outdated software – third-party apps made by independent developers may at some point be abandoned and no longer receive software updates. This leaves them vulnerable to the latest security threats.
  • Fraud – third-party apps may be designed specifically to commit fraud or as a platform for phishing attacks, where users are tricked into disclosing sensitive information such as financial details.
  • Malware and viruses – even third-party apps designed with good intentions can be susceptible to malware and viruses, which may then go on to compromise the security of your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Poor data handling – whether by collecting unnecessary amounts of data, sharing this data with unauthorized parties, or using this data for advertising purposes without consent, third-party apps are more likely to violate users’ privacy when it comes to their data.

Reviewing App Permissions

It’s important to review the level of permissions you grant an app once it has been downloaded. This will help to safeguard your privacy and prevent apps from carrying out any potentially invasive activity without your knowledge. Ask yourself the following questions; what is the purpose of this app? Do the permissions the app has asked for align with its purpose, or do they seem excessive? Do I need to grant all of these permissions in order to let the app do what I need it to do? Can I limit the reach of these permissions, e.g. only letting the app activate location services when I’m actively using it?

If you’re suspicious about any of the permissions requested by an app, you might want to consider looking for an alternative. If possible, read relevant app reviews to understand other users’ experiences and any potential risks they might have encountered after downloading.

Authenticating App Sources

Reading reviews can help you to build a picture of an app’s trustworthiness. Here are some other ways to verify the authenticity of an app:

  • Only download apps from official app stores – this is the obvious answer, but not necessarily the right solution for everyone.
  • Investigate the developer’s website – make sure that their website is legitimate, and if you have to download their app from anywhere other than an official app store, do it from their website.
  • Have security software ready – by having security measures in place ahead of time you can limit the risk to your computer should you happen to download a malicious third-party app.

Monitoring App Activity

There are signs of suspicious activity that you can look out for if you suspect that an app may be illegitimate.

If your battery suddenly starts to deplete in a way that is inconsistent with your usage, it could be a sign that a malicious app is running in the background. Similarly, any spikes in data usage might indicate that an app is working in the background to communicate with remote servers. Both of these signs can also lead to your phone overheating.

Spam ads or unusual pop-ups might also indicate the presence of a virus thanks to a third-party app, or could show that your data is being unlawfully shared in order to bombard you with targeted advertising. You might not notice any unusual ads if you have an ad blocker in place.

If your device suddenly seems prone to crashing and suddenly develops other signs of instability, it could mean that a malicious app is interfering with its performance.

Limiting App Usage

Wherever possible, it’s best to only download apps from trusted stores. Not every app on a third-party app store will be illegitimate, but the possibility of doing irreparable damage to your device should be more than enough to prevent you from seeing this for yourself.

Before turning to third-party apps, see if there are any built-in device features that can achieve what you’re looking for. Offerings from your official developer are always bound to have better security measures in place and run more reliably.

Protect Your Privacy With iolo

It’s always important to weigh the risks and read the fine print when downloading anything onto your smartphone or computer – even if it appears to be a legitimate app. Unfortunately, billions of dollars are lost to mobile app fraud every year, and ask fraudsters get smarter and more determined, security measures have to develop just as quickly to keep them at bay.

At iolo we take your security seriously, and our range of privacy protecting products can help to keep your devices secure and take a load off your mind.


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The Whole Home License® is iolo’s licensing policy that allows you to install and keep your software running on all of your compatible devices within the same home. Previously, users were allowed to install and license their iolo software simultaneously on a maximum of three PCs. Under the Whole Home License, a single activation key allows you to use your iolo software on all of your PCs, other than any PCs you use for business purposes. What you need to know about Whole Home Licensing

  • You, your spouse, and your relatives living within the same household may use the same license on any number of PCs that you own which are not used for business.
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You can view the Activation Key on the original computer from within System Mechanic > red menu bar > key icon > Activation Key.