Why Installing Unofficial Apps May Put You at Risk

Smartphone and tablet apps help you get the most out of your devices, whether you need to be more productive, learn a new language, or find the best shopping deals.

However, thanks to a practice called sideloading, installing apps can put your device and data at risk. Here’s what you need to know.

What is sideloading an app?

Sideloading refers to obtaining an app through a method other than the official store for the respective platform. Sometimes, people do this because they want to revert to an older version of an app after finding a bug in the latest version. However, others try sideloading because they find that legitimate app stores don’t offer the options they want.

Many sideloaded apps contain content that is not part of the official App Store for some reason.

In 2019, Google did not allow people to sideload its apps on Huawei devices. At the time, the US government banned several Chinese companies, including Huawei, from doing business in the country. Google’s stance was that the Huawei ban prevented products from undergoing the usual security reviews and compatibility tests that the company requires.

Which platforms and devices allow users to sideload apps?

Sideloading an app is not as straightforward as people might think or expect. Doing so may involve downloading certain components or running a virtual machine. Users should note that this may require going deep into procedures that quickly become confusing, even if they read the instructions and go through each step slowly.

It’s also important to acknowledge that the mere fact that sideloading works on a system doesn’t necessarily mean that the company associated with the platform or device approves of the people doing it—quite the contrary, in fact!

Can You Sideload Apps on Android?

Sideloading is arguably the easiest on Google’s Android operating system. People can find sideload download options through sites that host APK packages. After that they have to enable Android setting to download unknown apps.

The sideloading option goes beyond the phone as well. The Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets also run on Android. The easiest way to sideload is to transfer content from an Android phone to the headset. Doing it with a PC is a more complicated option.

Can You Sideload Apps on Apple?

Apple has long been against sideloading content. It argues that allowing people to obtain apps would compromise App Store security and increase the risk to everyone who uses Apple devices.

Some solutions reportedly let people sideload content to iPhones and iPads. However, sideloading on iOS requires the device to be jailbroken. This voids the warranty and makes operating system updates less straightforward.

Can you sideload apps on windows 11?

Windows 11 openly supports sideloading Android apps so people can use them on their computers. Proponents say this will significantly increase the number of apps Windows users can try.

Can You Sideload Apps on Streaming Platforms?

Sideloading is also possible for Amazon Fire Stick, Fire TV, and Kindle owners. Users often provide their insight on the fastest ways to do this and report any pitfalls. In 2022, Kobo revealed a sideload mode for its e-readers.

Why is it risky to sideload apps?

Developers are already under pressure to build and test app features in tight deadlines. Failing to ensure that their apps work properly can lead to data breaches and other costly problems.

In 2020 alone, 3,900 data breaches were recorded worldwide, costing an average of $3.86 million per breach. Without obtaining apps from an official source, it’s impossible to know if anyone has put them through a proper vetting process.

Malicious parties also purposefully spread harmful apps. It is easy for them to get away with this when distributing through informal channels. Cyber ​​criminals often confuse these apps with genuine apps. Bitdefender researchers found five apps that impersonate real people and contain malware.

Dangerous software can even remotely take full control of an Android device.

Sideloading can even put an entire company and its network at risk. The rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs can help businesses operate more efficiently while keeping overhead costs low. However, letting workers use their own devices runs the risk of data breaches if company policies don’t set clear rules.

Leave a Comment