Android users can download most apps without using the official Google app store, but by default the ability to install apps from distributions (apk files) is disabled.
To enable this feature, you need to go to the smartphone settings, select the “Security” menu item, then “Advanced settings” and “Install applications from external sources”. In this section, you can give permissions to install the software.
Also, the requested app can be found on a few major sites like APKPure, APKMirror or Uptodown that provide users with the ability to download apps without Google Play. This is one of the easiest options, but there is a high risk of infecting your device with malicious code.
Attackers can not only create clone sites to download and distribute malware, but also hack official sites to infect users.
“To significantly reduce the risk of encountering malicious or unwanted adware, it is important to download and install only official versions of applications. You can find them in the official app stores or on the developer’s website. Such applications (and their updates) are often checked for the presence of malicious code,” stresses Dmitry Galov, cybersecurity specialist at Kaspersky Lab.
According to him, downloading apps from unofficial sources increases the risk of encountering malware.
“Third-party app stores remain the main infection vector for mobile devices today. If the user still decides to download the application by bypassing the official store, we recommend that you check whether the software is available on the developer’s website (and download it on this website if possible); be careful what data the application requests access to and do not grant access to data the software does not need for proper operation; it is important to use a reliable security solution on mobile devices,” Galov advised.
Some smartphone models also have alternative app stores installed, such as the App Gallery or Galaxy Store. This is one of the safest options – official services manage mobile applications downloaded by developers, which reduces risks for users.
Are you waiting to be blocked?
It is technically possible to completely block or disable Google Play in the Russian Federation, but Mikhail Bogdanov, the founder of the Koshelek.ru service, believes that it is difficult to say how realistic this is.
“Everything depends on Google itself, its policy in our country. Now the company is trying to stay out of politics because the issue of making a profit and increasing revenue is paramount. We hope that all the current restrictions are really temporary, ”explained the expert.
A similar opinion is shared by Olga Bobrovskaya, marketing director of Gem4me messenger.
Google has previously officially announced that it will temporarily limit the operation of the Google Play app store in Russia from March 10, 2021. At the same time, it was reported that only free applications will be available to users from the Russian Federation in the Play Market. Therefore, the foreign company itself has limited access to some applications of the Russians, and the organization also has the ability to completely close the store in the Russian Federation, ”said the statement.
However, Sergey Matusevich, director of web technologies development at Artezio (part of the LANIT group), believes that it is impossible to block services in the modern digital world.
“You can make it harder for users to access services and stores from a particular region, but you can’t completely block access. Especially if we are talking about the Android operating system, which does not allow you to install applications only from the official store. The user just needs to download the setup file and run it by himself. In addition, access to the store can be provided by using alternative options. I think the problem of accessing Google Play is most likely temporary. No official target has been announced to block the app store,” Matusevich said.