Last updated on August 21, 2016
Android is one of the most popular mobile operating systems. However, some Android apps can cause security issues if not carefully handled. They can be badly written which leaves a lot of security holes for intruders, or itself acts like a malware/virus. Therefore, before installing an Android app, one need to do some checks to make sure it won’t cause security issues.
A very important way to discover possible security issues of an app is to read reviews about the app. Some review would reveal some security issues of an app. You can read reviews from various sources: Google Play, Android Apps Review, etc. You can also search the Internet for reviews from various sources.
Make Sure Your Installation Source Is Trustworthy
The source where the app comes from is important. If an app is from a pirate website, it is probably not as trustworthy as a legitimate app store such as Google Play and F-droid—indeed, 99% of malwares are from untrustable sources.
Read the Permissions It Asks for
Some Android apps ask for more permissions than they need, which often causes security issues. There are two kinds of security issues: they are vulnerable to intruders, and/or they can be malware by themselves. For example, there was once a football game in the front page of the Google Play store which requires various unneeded permissions including testing access to protected storage, reading phone status and identity, and retrieving running apps. With more permissions, the football game can cause more serious issues if cracked than it would otherwise be. More astonishingly, the game itself may even be an intended tool to steal users’ information for its company. However, if for some reasons, say work, you are required to install an app which asks for much more permissions than it really needs, consider using the permission control features provided by Android 6.0+. However, the permission control feature is often not detailed enough and sometimes makes the app not working. Thus, it is best to avoid installing any of these apps. (If you need more detailed permission controls, please consider looking into XPrivacy, which is however harder to install.)
See Whether the App Is Still Maintained
Unmaintained software usually would not fix any security bugs. For example, ForumFiend became unmaintained and its author suggested to switch to its alternatives. Therefore, it is important to make sure the app is still maintained, especially if it is Internet related.
Despite its good quality, Android isn’t a perfectly secure operating system. Always keep an eye on any apps you intend to install—they may lie down security problems if not careful.