Are shopping apps safe?

As we shoppers get better at identifying scams, cybercriminals are having to create new ways to try and steal our money. Effective PC security tools like Panda Safe Web can identify and block fake websites before scammers have a chance to trick us.

But increasingly we are shopping from our smartphones and tablets instead of desktop PCs. Realising this, cybercriminals have begun to develop a range of mobile-focused attacks designed to steal personal data and money.

So when you do fire up a shopping app on your mobile phone, how do you know it can be trusted?
Here are some tips.

1. Only download apps from official sources

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store use a very strict approval process to protect their customers. Whenever an app is submitted to one of these official stores, it is checked to ensure that it is not infected with malware, and doesn’t take personal data without your permission.

For iPhone users this is great news – every app they can download has been checked to ensure it is safe. Especially as Apple devices cannot install apps from anywhere else but the App Store.

Android users on the other hand are not limited to the Google Play store – they can download and install apps from virtually anywhere. Although this is much more flexible, not all app stores or websites apply the same security checks. Cybercriminals exploit this weakness by tricking Android users into downloading infected apps from email attachments or fake app stores. Once installed, this malware allows scammers to steal credit card details, or to encrypt your files so you cannot access them without paying a ransom.

When it comes to downloading shopping apps you must ensure they come from the official app store – otherwise you could be inviting cybercriminals onto your phone.

2. Install a mobile Security tool

You wouldn’t dream of leaving your PC unprotected against malware – so why ignore your mobile phone? Just this week mobile hacking hit the headlines again as government officials tried to highlight the risks.

It is absolutely essential that Android owners install a mobile security tool to protect themselves against fake shopping apps. Panda Mobile Security scans installed apps to detect malware and alert you to potential problems before your data can be stolen.

Using Panda Mobile Security you can also control what each app does, preventing them from accessing your data, or from triggering your camera or microphone. You can also prevent apps – good or bad – from uploading your information to the cloud, adding an additional layer of protection.

Stay alert

As well as installing security software on your mobile phone, you need to treat apps, web downloads and email attachments with caution. In the same way that you don’t open attachments from people you don’t know on your PC, you shouldn’t download unknown apps from untrusted websites.

As our phones become an important part of our shopping habits, criminals will devote more of their time and effort to attacking them. So it pays to protect yourself now before they attack you.