Files08 – Why You Need To Be Careful About Installing APK Files On Android Phones
Since third-party app installer packages aren’t sourced from official channels, sideloading lacks quality control. Virtually all apps downloaded from the Play Store are secured with Google Play Protect, which monitors your library for potentially harmful apps and runs safety checks before they’re installed on your Android device, as explained by Google; sideloading via APK files leaves you without that safety net. Pirated apps are distributed via APK packages, too, meaning the developers who created the titles don’t get your support if you download them this way. Piracy isn’t the only concern when you’re sideloading APK files, though. Malicious vendors can inject a regular app with adware or malware, compromising the health and safety of your Android smartphone or tablet. Adware can make the UI experience annoying at best or unusable at worst, and malware spread through APK files can spy on you and steal sensitive information like passwords and personal files.
Because of this genuine risk, Android has built-in security features to prevent malicious apps from being sideloaded — that is, Android doesn’t allow app installations from unknown sources by default. On Android 7 and older, this access had to be enabled globally, but the newer versions of Android give users finer, more granular control over which apps can be installed using APK files. Regardless, you should stick to more trusted APK repositories like F-Droid if you want to operate outside of the Play Store, plus you should avoid shady, piracy-focused sources. If you must install an app from a third-party source, try running the APK file through a virus scan before installing it to make sure it’s (hopefully) safe.