How to Spot an Android Trojan

Malware that targets Android phones is on the rise. According to a recent report from mobile security specialists at Lookout, Android users are more than twice as likely to encounter nefarious software today than they were six months ago. When did downloading apps become a contact sport?

The open nature of the platform and the ease with which developers can upload apps in Google’s official Android Market are partially to blame. The same accessibility that makes Android attractive to phone manufacturers and developers has attracted the attention of mischief-makers and malware creators out to make a quick buck.

Fortunately, mobile devices have some inherent protections that don’t exist on traditional PCs. For any malware to infect your phone, you need to take some kind of action for it to happen—usually downloading and installing an app. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are hundreds of thousands of Android apps, spread over several app stores. No cell phone is an island—you’ve got to download something at some point.

If you’re an Android user, there are a number of precautions you can take to better protect yourself (first thing: use a lock code on your phone). Downloading from only “trusted” sources is always good advice, but how do you know who to trust? Lots of great apps come from little developers and small businesses that most people wouldn’t recognize. How can you tell the difference between them and the bad guys?

There are a number of warning signs to help you spot evildoing Android apps, and we’ve compiled them below. But the main ingredient in protecting yourself is always vigilance. Read before you download—and after. Don’t blindly click on things (like permissions agreements) with wild abandon. All the rules below are essentially extensions of the golden rule of all security: stay on guard.

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