The emergence of smartphones changed the way information is accessed. It has been Android, however, which has allowed the common man access to smartphones. Since it’s inception in 2008, it has pioneered us in an age where everybody uses a smartphone, so much so that it can perform many functions that were earlier possible only on desktops and laptops. Apart from Apple, nearly all smartphone vendors use the Android OS for their devices.
Android’s open and flexible nature (it is open source after all), which makes it extremely popular, also makes it vulnerable to malware, spyware, adware etc. In such a scenario, it is important to keep your phone safe. Here, we discuss some ways to keep your Android devices safe –
1 Lock your phone’s screen
The most basic security feature all smartphones offer. If you think this is a trivial point, you’ll be surprised to know that roughly 28% American smartphone users don’t use the screen lock, according to a Pew Research Centre report from January 2017. It is quite surprising actually, given that most people have some personal data stored on their phones. A pickpocket can cause more damage to you than a malware if no screen lock is there on your phone.
It is very easy to setup screen lock on your phone. Simply go to Setting->Fingerprint and Password (Security in most phones)->Set Screen Lock. Here, you would be asked to set either Pattern, PIN, or password as your authentication. Our recommendation is to use a strong password, at least 8 characters long and containing at least one uppercase letter, one special symbol, and one number.
Also Read: 10 Security Tips for safe Internet browsing
2 Keep Android OS and applications updated
Apart from new features, updates bring important bug fixes and patches to security vulnerabilities. Updates makes it difficult for cyber criminals to gain access to your data. Thus, ensure that applications are set on auto – update and constantly check for OS updates.
Also, prefer to buy phones from vendors known for pushing frequent updates. Google phones get updates as soon as they’re released. Android Authority ranks the other major vendors as follows (from fastest to slowest) – LG, Motorola, Sony, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Samsung.
3 Use Google PlayStore for application downloads
Use only Play store for downloading applications on your phone. Google constantly checks applications on Playstore for malicious content, which is not done by 3rd party app stores, which should be thus avoided.
Installing applications by downloading .apk files from the internet, also called sideloading, should be strictly avoided unless you know about the application and verify the publisher. Additionally, disable permission to install apps from unknown sources. To do this, go to Settings->Security, uncheck Unknown Sources box.
Also Read: 15 Awesome WhatsApp Tricks You Never Knew
4 Encrypt your data
Android allows you to encrypt your phone. This makes all your phone data encrypted with a password, which you have to enter every time the phone is powered up to decrypt your phone. Encryption ensures that no unauthorized person can access your data.
Encrypting and decrypting is a slow process. However, if there is sensitive data on your phone, then it is worthwhile for you.
To encrypt data, go to Settings->Security->Encrypt Phone and check the Encrypt SD card option too, if you use one.
5 Use only secure WiFi networks
Internet hotspots provided at airports and coffee shops are some examples of unsecured Wi-Fi networks. These networks greatly compromise your security, as any cyber-criminal could be waiting to do a man in the middle attack. In such an attack, your internet packets going through the router can be intercepted and converted to plain text, giving the attacker sensitive information like your password, credit card numbers etc.
Thus, you should use only unsecured networks for internet access. However, in case of any urgent work, use a VPN client (such as Hotspot Shield) and don’t do any financial transactions.
Also Read: Top 20 Android Apps of 2018
6 App Permissions
Permissions granted to an application determines how much data and features of the phone it can access. It is a very important point while vetting applications before downloading; you should carefully check the permissions that the app needs before installing it and decide accordingly. For example, a clock app which needs Messaging permission should raise suspicion.
Another advantage of using Google Play store is it displays permissions required by an app before downloading, and it takes quick action against suspicious apps.
With Android Marshmallow and above (Android 6.0+), you can control app permissions. This allows you to decide on what permissions an app is allowed, allowing for better security of your device. To control permissions, go to Settings->Permissions->App Permission Management. Here you will see a list of various permissions given to different apps and you can select what permissions are to be given to which application.
7 Viruses and malware
Android viruses are rare and are almost always installed via dodgy apps. Downloading apps via Playstore is the best way to avoid getting viruses. Most Android viruses and malware attempt to send SMSes subscribe the user to premium services and display ads. Newer viruses are more sophisticated; they can even allow attackers to execute HTTP requests for DDoS attacks and can also use the phone’s processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.
As discussed, avoiding third-party app stores and sideloading is the best way to avoid viruses. Avoid clicking on pop-up ads that claim your device has a virus or is slowing down. Having an antivirus installed is also a good measure, although they do not foolproof. If you want to install an antivirus, Techadvisor recommends BitDefender antivirus. Keeping Android updated is paramount to avoiding viruses, as Google regularly issues patches to vulnerabilities that are targeted by viruses.
Rooting allows you to obtain administrative privileges over your phone. It allows you to change your OS, install updates which are not pushed by your vendor and various other stuff.
If you have a rooted device, you can switch to a more secure OS and install the latest security patches released by Google, allowing for a more secure environment for your phone.
However, many malware asks for root access while posing as genuine applications. There are many root checker programs available on third party websites and app stores which are basically malware disguised as a genuine program. So, you should be wary of providing applications root access.
9 Set up User Accounts
If your phone is regularly used by other people, it is smart to set up different user accounts on your phone. Android Lollipop and above versions allow you to setup different user accounts. By setting up user accounts, you can restrict how much of your phone can be accessed by different people
To set up a new user account, go to Settings->Users and Accounts->Users->Add User. Now you will be asked whether the new account is to be a regular or restricted account. Select the type of account and then select to set up the account now or later. If you select now, you will be logged out of the current account and set up the new account. Setting up a new account is similar to setting up a new phone.
10 Useless apps
All apps have some security vulnerabilities which can be exploited by attackers. Thus, to enhance security, uninstall apps which you’re not using. This would give attackers lesser options to compromise your phone.
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