written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 3/15/2011
Think mobile phones are immune to viruses and cyber threats? Think again. Recently, Android users saw that very scenario with suspicious looking apps in the Android Market. So what does an Android user need to know? Read about how to avoid identity theft on Android here.
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If you're an Android user, you've heard the latest news on suspicious apps in the Android Market. Cyber crime has of course been a big thing for users of the Internet, but some people believe that certain platforms and devices are immune. The incident brings to light that these things can happen and may leave you wondering -- is it safe to buy apps on the Android Market?
The issues with the apps and programs in the Android Market bring up an interesting question - how does a user avoid identity theft on Android cell phones? There are of course ways to keep your identity and your phone safe from threats.
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What is Identity Theft?
Firstly, what exactly is identity theft? Basically it is the act of using someone else's name and other information in order to receive things for yourself. It's the theft of someone's identity. This is usually done when someone steals another person's wallet, which could contain an ID card or driver's license, money, and of course credit cards. The thief then goes about pretending to be this person, using their money and credit card for illegal purchases, all of which gets charged to the original person whose wallet was stolen in the first place.
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Identity Theft and the Android Market
Android users are already aware how expansive the Android Market is, allowing for users to download programs and apps in order to make their smartphones really unique and personal. While there are paid applications, many apps are free, which of course is one of the main reasons that people will likely download them.
In recent months, however, Android has had to remove at least 21 of these free apps due to the fact that they contained malware that, once on a user's phone, could literally take over - sending user information and even getting hold of the underlying root control of the phone itself.
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How to Avoid Identity Theft on Android
Knowing how to avoid identity theft on Android phones is a similar process to avoiding it on your computer. Being aware of programs and apps that are downloaded, as well as taking care of your information is paramount to avoiding having your information used for nefarious purposes.
Be Wary of Free Programs - just like on the Internet, you should be wary of free apps that are listed in the Android Market. Hackers and thieves use the premise of free applications so that people will download them, especially when it's on a reputable site sponsored by a reputable business. When interested in a new app, check out the comments section and for even better research, do a search of the app on the Internet.
Install Anti Virus/Anti Spyware - if you think installing an anti-virus program for your phone seems silly, you would be wrong. Sometimes people forget that, with the increase of technology, cell phones are becoming more like hand held computers. You certainly wouldn't use your computer without an anti-virus program would you? (Hopefully you've said no). There are a few Android security applications, but the most popular is Lookout Security, which scans all programs that are installed or updated on your phone. It will even send you weekly alerts via the e-mail address that you've signed up with. The free versions comes with a two week trial of the premium version and users are free to upgrade to the paid version at any time.
Check Permissions - when you download an app from the market, it will tell you the types of permissions that it needs in order to work. Some apps do require certain permissions, such as access to GPS or your information, in order to give you the most from the app. Google Maps or CardioTrainer for example do need access to the GPS, while your calendar would need access to say the Internet. Some apps, however, shouldn't need this information. Why would a video game need access to your contact information? Simple answer - it wouldn't.