Thursday, July 5, 2012

Is your Android Smartphone Serving Up Steaming Spam?

Ok, if you've got an Apple iPhone, this isn't for you.  You have a product that is made within what they call a "walled garden".  Basically one company controls the hardware and the software that gets onto the phone - Apple.   If you want your software to be on the iPhone, you the developer have to submit your software to a review by Apple so that it's not going to do anything naughty.

You know, like serve up a steaming spam sandwich.

Android is a different beast.  Google isn't really reviewing the software that gets put onto your tablets or your phones as thoroughly.  As a result, there is a lot of software that is written by "some guy over a weekend".  That's great, given the right guy.

The problem is that when you have a spammer out there who has a desire to make money through criminal methods, they'll do all sorts of things.

The trick is that you really don't want to be the first person to install a program.  Sometimes, you don't want to be the 1000th person. 

There are a lot of apps on the "Google Play" store that are hacked versions of the real software.  That is how you get your virus installed.   You see two versions of an app and one says it's the full version and its Free! so you install the app.  Open it and now you're a spammer too.   If your device is a tablet computer using Wifi to get to the internet, it's a nuisance.  If you are using a smartphone and have a limited data contract, it's a very expensive nuisance.

So here are a few helpful hints:

  • First, make sure that you aren't installing apps that are questionable.  
  • Read the reviews for the apps.  
  • If there are few reviews or there are a lot of low ratings (1 or 2 stars) don't install it.   
  • Check the permissions and make sure that you're not giving away full access.  Most free apps are actually paid by flashing ads on the screen and will require internet access.
  • Consider if you really do need that new game.
  • Remember, you are safest if you don't install any apps, but if you do you have to take responsibility and do the research.

Furthermore, install an antivirus program and make sure it is updated frequently.  Just like on Windows, you need to make sure that your antivirus has the latest updates.   I use Lookout Security on Android because it was suggested to me by an Android Guru and I have seen reviews outside of the whole Google Play scene saying it was worth using.  Granted there are some bad reviews, but 23 to 1 in favor of the app.

You also should find where to check for your data usage.  On my phone, the T-Mobile app will do that for me, as long as I am not on Wifi Calling.  On newer operating systems such as Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" (or ICS), it is in your Settings at the Data Usage tab.  There's a handy graph there that I miss when I go back to the phone.   It will tell you which programs are hogging up your bandwidth.   If your newest game is now your biggest data user, you have a problem there and consider removing that program via "Google Play" immediately. 

They just put out a newer version 4.1 called Jelly Bean, so now I'll have to wait for an update if one ever becomes available.   Older devices will never run it, newer ones may or may not, it depends if the company that made it will support the older hardware.

For example, I expect "TuneIn" to have high usage since I leave it running playing music all day from a few select web radio stations.  I do NOT expect Solitaire to have high data usage at all.  It basically is a judgement call, it expects you to watch what's happening and control your own data usage.

Remember that smartphone in your pocket is a computer.  It needs to be looked after from time to time, just like the desktop or laptop computer at home or work.

No comments:

Post a Comment