Mobile apps are a powerful addition to a company’s marketing engine. Making an official mobile app extends your reach and your brand experience directly to the devices that are closest to your customers.
But whether the official mobile app is finished and mature or still on the drawing board, CMOs should take note: Mobile apps are a fast-growing source of risk to customers, brand reputation, and businesses’ bottom lines.
Fortunately, it does not take much to secure your brand in the mobile app space. By following these three tips, CMOs and their brands can dramatically reduce their mobile app risk, in many cases bringing it down to near zero.
Find Third-Party Mobile Apps That Carry Your Brand
If you are contemplating creating a mobile app to service your customers, it is likely that others have also considered it. And that means it is possible–and even probable–that third parties have already published apps that carry your brand and target your customers.
CMOs need to make sure that all third-party apps that carry their brand are identified, analyzed, and understood. Such apps can not only push your official app down in an app store’s listing of available applications, but it can also subject your customers to a poor experience that could cause them to abandon the app or brand altogether. What’s more, malicious third-party apps can also use your brand and your brand trust to divert your customers' PII (personally identifiable information) for future social engineering attacks, like phishing schemes.
CMOs should minimize marketing and business risk by prioritizing a survey and audit of all third-party apps–malicious or otherwise–that carry their trusted brand.
Monitor Where Your Official App Appears
Today scores of mobile app stores provide links to download sites or host copies of mobile apps for direct downloads, which can pose some real risks that CMOs need to consider.
For example, as you fix bugs and improve your official mobile apps, you will want to make sure that all of your users have installed the latest updates. Unfortunately, third-party sites may not be hosting the latest version of your applications. Unofficial app stores often keep older versions of apps even after companies have withdrawn support from them, adding to the importance of monitoring third-party app stores.
Additionally, companies need to be positive that the applications available for download at these unofficial or unauthorized sites are true copies of their official apps. Malicious third parties have been known to alter official applications, inserting malware or other capabilities that connect end users’ mobile devices directly to the fraudsters and exposing sensitive data and personal information for poor intentions.
For instance, it was widely reported that nearly 80 percent of the copycat versions of one of the most popular mobile gaming apps of 2014, Flappy Bird, had been hacked. Anti-malware company McAfee reported that cybercriminals were able to remotely hijack users’ phones to make calls, steal contacts, and track GPS locations. What’s more, many of the knock-off apps also allowed attackers to establish root access control over anything on the device, including the recording, sending, and receiving of SMS messages. These “clone” apps are especially dangerous and CMOs need to closely monitor for them or risk jeopardizing their customers and company.
Expand Your Circle Of Coverage
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the Apple Store and Google Play are the only stores you need to monitor. App listings are offered in a wide variety of app stores, including stores dedicated to specific mobile phone brands and stores in other geographic areas.
Here is a partial list of some of the most popular alternate app stores: 1Mobile, Amazon Appstore for Android, AppsLib, Appia, App Brain, AppsZoom, Android Pit, Aptoide, Baidu App Store, Brophone, CNET, F-Droid, GetJar (Google Play), Handango, Insyde Market, Mobango, Mi App store (China), Mobile9, Mobogenie, Nexva, Opera Mobile App Store, Nexva, Samsung Galaxy Store, Slide ME, Soc.io, Softonic, and Yandex (Russia).
But these only scratch the surface. Although each of these stores comes to market with the intention of providing great apps to iOS and Android users, they each represent a new source of potentially threatening apps. And new stores are appearing all the time. To fully protect your customers from malicious apps that carry your company’s brand, it’s essential to monitor as many of these as possible.