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 to get updates faster. Sometimes it can be the only option when a desired app is not available via the Play Store for one reason or another.
In order to make sure the APKs you are about to install are safe, it would be wise to scan them first to make sure they don’t contain anything harmful. Fortunately, there are tools that let you do that, and we’ve gathered some of them for you here.
Why It’s Recommended to Scan APK Files
Sideloading apps works well, but there are some disadvantages. For one, sideloading is not allowed on Android devices by default. You will have to allow installation from unknown sources in Settings to be able to do it. Moreover, you won’t be getting updates for these apps automatically. You have to remember to update the app manually once an update becomes available in your area.
A more serious disadvantage is the inherent security risk that it represents. Because APK files don’t come from the Play Store, you can’t 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 these nasty viruses from infecting your phone is to download APKs from trusted sources only. APK Mirror, for example, 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 is by scanning your APK files for viruses before installing. There are a few services that can help you scan an APK. What follows are the best ones you can use.
Metadefender allows you to upload an APK file to be scanned by multiple antivirus engines. Files are treated as archives, meaning they will be extracted so that each individual file is scanned, but a scan of the whole unextracted APK file will be performed as well. Users can simply drag and drop their files, and a report will be compiled in a few seconds.
You can access the Metadefender service on your PC, but it’s also possible to scan files directly from your Android phone. While there’s no dedicated mobile app, you can still use it via your handset’s browser.
Metadefender can be used to scan almost anything – including IP addresses, URLs, files and more – not just APKs. So if you ever feel suspicious about something online, this is a great tool to have at your disposal.
VirusTotal is another alternative that works similarly to the previous one. It analyzes your APK files and helps to detect all kinds of viruses and malware that may be present. The service is easy to use: just upload your files to make sure they are bug-free. Additionally, you can copy-paste URLs in VirusTotal or use the search function to check IP addresses, domains or file hash.
VirusTotal is also available as a mobile app, although its use is limited to scanning the apps you’ve already installed on your device. It can be downloaded from the Play Store for free.