Sideloading apps on an Android device is often used as a way to bypass restrictions (such as when an app is not available in your region) or get updates quicker, and sometimes it’s the only option when a desired app is not available in the Play Store for some reason.
This works well, but there are some disadvantages to doing so. For one, sideloading is not allowed on Android phones by default; you have to turn on “Allow installation from Unknown sources” in the Settings to be able to do so.
In addition, you do not get updates automatically; you have to remember to update the app manually once an update becomes available.
A more serious disadvantage is the inherent security risk that it represents. Because the APK file is not on the Play Store, you cannot be sure that the app is as its developer intended it to be. In some cases APK files are pirated to bypass some restrictions (such as in-app purchases) or, worse yet, injected with malware that will compromise your phone’s security.
One way to prevent viruses from infecting your phone as a result of sideloading apps is by downloading APKs for trusted sources only. APK Mirror is generally accepted by the Android community as being a safe place to get APK files.
Another way you can prevent malware from being loaded onto your phone through APK files is by scanning them to detect viruses before installing. There are quite a few services that will help you scan an APK file before you install it on your phone.
Here are a few of the best ones.
Metadefender allows you to upload an APK file up to 140 MB to be scanned by multiple antivirus engines. The APK file is extracted so that all individual files in the archive are scanned in addition to the whole unextracted APK file being scanned. The following is an example of how the results of a successful scan will be displayed for a safe APK file.
2. NVISIO APK Scan
Similar to Metadefender, NVISIO APK Scan allows you to upload an APK through your web browser for scanning but without the file size limits. All you need to do is select the APK via your operating system’s file picker and click “Scan package.” After a while a scan report will be generated for your perusal. If you prefer, you can have the scan results emailed to you once the scan is complete.
VirusTotal is another free service that works just the same as the previous two mentioned. It analyzes your APK files and helps to detect all kinds of viruses and malware that may be present. The only downside to using this service is its file limit which maxes out at 128MB – plenty for most apps but insufficient for some games.
Hopefully this article has helped you discover some useful tools to stay safe while sideloading apps on your Android device. In any case resist downloading anything off random websites or dodgy third-party app stores; try to stick to the Play Store as much as possible.