TrustGo head of marketing Jeff Becker says that of the more than 1.5 million apps that TrustGo has scanned so far—which in many cases includes multiple versions of the same app available from various online sources—17 percent include what the company classifies as “high risk” code. This means the app may be able to do things to your smart phone that you’re not aware of and that can compromise your data, such as making unauthorized payments from your phone.
TrustGo scans the same app across multiple marketplaces because an app’s quality, or integrity, can vary depending on where you buy it. Hackers might download a copy of an app, insert malicious code, and then upload the app to another online app store, Becker says.
When searching for new apps to download through TrustGo, a user can see if an app has been certified as a safe download, or is considered a security risk (ranging from “low risk” to “high risk”). Tapping on the security rating of an app will show details about why the rating was assigned. For example, an app called Burger Restaurant 3 available through Google Play was flagged as “high risk” for a couple of reasons, one of them being that it uses an ad network which TrustGo says can read your phone number and pass it on to other websites.
Gartner analyst John Pescatore says there’s definitely a market for the kind of app approval that TrustGo offers. Android users want to know which ones are safe. “That’s what the App Store is for Apple and that’s what’s lacking in Android, so I think that’s what the bigger opportunity is here,” he says.
Still, TrustGo will have to show that it can make money from its services. TrustGo is currently free, and it may stay that way—the company may eventually follow a “freemium” model by giving out a version of its app for free and charging for premium features like data backup, Becker says.