How to choose a truly free smartphone game

Tips for thrifty gamers, such as how to protect yourself from malware when choosing a free-to-play game and filter out the garbage that is not worth your time and attention.

Avoid catching a virus and don’t waste your time or money when choosing a free-to-play mobile game

Wherever and whenever you want to play, mobile games are there for you. You can occupy yourself on the subway or while waiting in line at the doctor’s office by battling in Fortnite or PUBG, or you can spend your lunch break gathering resources in Clash of Clans. What’s more, many developers provide such entertainment free.

Indeed, you’ll find many free-to-play mobile games in your app store, although among the greats lurk plenty that are more annoying than fun, filling your screen with ads, recommending payment every step of the way, even in some cases not appearing to do anything at all (while downloading a bunch of useless or outright malicious apps).

In this post, we will tell you how you can find free entertainment for iOS and Android systems — without courting unnecessary aggravation or risking picking up something unpleasant on your smartphone.

Check if there is in fact a mobile version of the game at all

Been looking forward to the mobile version of your favorite online shooter? Be careful. It is not uncommon for scammers to promote malware made to look like well-known games, especially if rumors on the Web suggest the release of an Android or iOS version is imminent.

That is exactly what happened last year with the Android version of Apex Legends, and in 2018 fans of another battle royale game, Fortnite, were targeted. In both cases, while users were eagerly anticipating a port of their favorite shooter to mobile devices, some criminals rode the wave of excitement.

The cybercriminals really went to town, creating websites where they posted a Trojan that appeared to be a mobile version of the game, and then publishing videos on YouTube with instructions for installing and launching the game. The videos told users how to download a couple of partner apps (which were the handiwork of the criminals), after which they said the game would launch successfully. Links to fraudulent resources and videos garnered the top search engine results for such queries as “Apex Legends Android,” perpetuating the scam.

To steer clear of such tricks, begin any game downloads with a visit to the official developer website. There you will not only be able to check the release information for mobile platforms, but also locate download links from Google Play and the App Store if the app has already been published on the store.

Download games only from official sources

Malware masquerades are not restricted to AAA titles that have not yet been released. The Internet is full of sites where scammers distribute fake apps that appear to be games long available for mobile devices. Therefore, just as with other apps, you should download games only from official stores such as Google Play and the App Store.

Of course, developers can’t always reach an agreement with Google or Apple, in which case they may publish app installation files on their own resources. For example, before April of this year, most users could download the Android version of Fortnite directly from Epic Games but not from Google Play. Recently, the game was again removed from Google’s store because the creators embedded their own payment system in it.

If for some reason the game you want is not available in the official app store, you should download it from the developer’s official website, not from any other source. In this case, enter the URL manually to avoid any fake pages scammers have promoted in search engines. (If you insist on clicking through a search results page, at least make sure the URL does not contain any suspicious errors and that the resource itself consists of more than just the game’s download page.)

Remember that if you want to download a file from a developer’s site, you will have to enable the ability to download apps from third-party sources. Do not forget to disable this setting in the device settings immediately after installing the game.

For little-known games, however, the above method is simply too risky. Anyone, including virus writers, can say their studio was unable to reach an agreement with the official app stores, and then publish a malware-infested game on their website.

Read reviews of the games

Just because a game has been published on Google Play or the App Store doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. First, despite the stores having security mechanisms and moderators in place to screen apps, downloading still entails risk. Second, even a legitimate game may pester you with offers.

In many cases, reviews can help you determine if an app is fake or overly greedy. If something is wrong with the app, someone will definitely report floods of advertising banners, a sudden drop in battery life, or money grabs.

Do not grant too many permissions to apps

Even if the game reviews are extremely positive, pay attention to the list of permissions it requires. Does the app want to be displayed on top of other windows? That’s a dangerous feature that banking Trojans commonly violate; don’t grant this permission to games. Does a “match three” puzzle want access to your camera? If so, find a different game. In general, give apps the minimum number of privileges they could possibly need. And if you find that an important feature does not work because you denied a permission, you can always grant it later.

Take measures to protect yourself in advance

Vigilance is good, but you can’t rely on it alone; cybercriminals are constantly inventing new ways to trick users. No matter which OS you use, install a reliable protection solution on your device. Whether for Android or iOS, Kaspersky Security Cloud detects dangers and either warns you about it or simply takes the necessary action.