Mobile app reputation is an assessment of the security and privacy of an app, typically expressed as a numerical rating. The ratings support the decisions of users on whether or not to download a given mobile app or what permissions should be allowed.
The trend toward smartphone use for mobile computing and the bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend in the workplace have combined to pose a significant threat to the security of end users and corporate networks. According to research by Webroot, an internet security company, 64 percent of almost two million Android apps tested in 2012 were determined to be trustworthy or benign. The number of apps available for testing had increased to nearly 50 million by 2016, and the percentage of those apps determined to be trustworthy had dropped to 21 percent.
Mobile app reputation services access the software available through app stores, analyze and evaluate it and make information available as a threat intelligence feed. Within the enterprise, the feed may be integrated with security software such as mobile device management (MDM) or mobile app management (MAM).
The addition of app reputation data to mobile management software makes it possible for an organization to automate decisions about each app based on specified criteria that may be customized for different users or user groups. The software may make the decision to prevent the installation of malicious or otherwise insecure apps or remove any that are found to be problematic after they’ve been installed. The data feed can also support decisions about what an app is allowed to do, such as sharing data with other programs.
The use of mobile app reputation services to automate security decisions removes the onus from end users to ensure that the apps they download are secure. Users can download apps as desired and rely on the management software to protect their devices and the corporate network from security threats.
Some app reputation service providers allow app developers to request a reassessment of their products if they believe their reputation ranking should be higher or if they have addressed issues that contributed to a low assessment.