A smartphone is not just a luxury item anymore, it’s a basic necessity for the modern lifestyle. There are many things that it can do for the average person, even more so for those with a strong technological inclination. And among all those benefits, entertainment stands out by a large margin. Mobile gaming is a huge market right now, and there are many indications that it’s only going to continue growing.
Many major publishers have realized the huge opportunity that lies in this area and has started to take advantage of the situation. However, there are also some less scrupulous players on this market who are exploring it in different directions. It’s getting more and more common to hear about yet another privacy or security issue with a mobile game. And even worse, it doesn’t look like people’s awareness on the topic is growing.
General Privacy Issues in Mobile Gaming
Various games on the market might attempt to find out more about you than they would admit to. Some incidents have already brought this behavior to the spotlight, but this only raises more questions. How much do those apps and games really track? Why does a game need permissions for your microphone? And even more important – why are users so careless about giving out permissions in the first place?
People are already speculating that Facebook might be listening in on your conversations for advertising purposes. Yet at the same time, hardly anyone is paying attention to what’s going on with the gaming market. Children-oriented games are even more likely to do this. There have been several (known) cases of games trying to build a profile about their underage users. Why? So that they can target them as best as they can with their advertising.
The Current State of Android
Android as an operating system is even more prone to such incidents due to the way it’s built. The OS allows more access to its internals by default and has a different way of handling app permissions. And on top of that, users have gotten used to the idea that it is normal for apps to request tons of different permissions. As a result, most Android users can be a bit careless about the way they’re using their devices.
Google has tried to intervene, but to no avail so far. The company can’t do much to change Android from its current state without alienating a major portion of its user base. And with these factors in mind, we’re somewhat stuck in the current situation.
One major factor that contributes to the poor security state of Android is the way it handles app installations. Users can retrieve their installation packages from third-party sites, instead of going through the official Play Store. Even major publishers have started to promote this, such as the release of “Fortnite” on mobile devices. This is a major security risk for less savvy users, as it can lead them to install apps that compromise their entire devices.
Keeping Your Device Safe
You don’t have to stay insecure if you’re aware of how things work though. There are several things any Android user can do to improve the security of their own devices. First and foremost, keep your OS updated. Android is a common target for hackers trying to compromise unsuspecting users. And in many cases, the way they get in is by exploiting security holes. Regular OS updates can be annoying, but there is a good reason for them.
You should also consider getting a VPN subscription. There are many companies on the market that can give you a good deal on one. You don’t need to be very experienced with digital devices to take full advantage of your VPN either. Just make sure that you’re getting it through a reliable company. After all, your communications are going to go through that channel. A mobile VPN will not prevent malware from reaching your device. However, it will go a long way toward preventing hackers from extracting useful information. Nobody can spy on your connection if it’s encrypted end to end.
Be wary of apps with suspicious installation procedures as well. As mentioned above, anything that requests to be installed from outside the Play Store should be treated with caution. If you know and trust the publisher, then proceed. But in other cases, take a step back and do some research to find out what the app is about. If there is not enough information about it online, that’s often a bad sign.
In the end, you don’t have to be scared of Android games. The operating system is more open than iOS, but that doesn’t have to make it less secure by default. As long as you pay attention to what you’re installing, you should be fine. Don’t skip those OS updates either – it can come back to bite you later.
Visual journalist/Graduating student, University of Missouri-Columbia. Lover of everything in the gaming industry and an avid fan of all films!