(MoneyWatch) There was a time when conventional wisdom said that anti-virus software was pointless on smartphones; the risk of malicious software was too low. That, however, was before Android and its relatively open and unregulated store. These days, you need to be more vigilant about software you install on your phone no matter what kind of device you own. But if you are an Android owner, you need to be especially careful.
Recently, MakeUseOf explained how to be a careful smartphone app consumer. Here are the essential details:
Pay attention to the reviews. No matter what kind of phone you have, don't download apps sight unseen; scan a representative sampling of recent reviews and look for telling details. Don't focus just on the ratings; look for any concerns about permissions that the app uses or anomalous behavior after installing it.
Check out the developer. Most apps come not from large publishing houses, but from small boutique developers or even individuals. See what you can learn about a developer online, especially of you've never heard of them before, and look at other apps they've released to see if there are any red flags.
Review permissions. On Android, you can see what permissions an app will request before you install it. (On iOS, you don't see those permissions until after the app in installed and the app actively wants to use those resources.) If an app wants to access something unusual -- like your contacts -- when you don't think it should, there's a big red flag.