How to se­cure your An­droid phone or tablet


TH­ESE DAYS, MOST An­droid phones have a wealth of se­cu­rity op­tions built in, and con­sid­er­ing how much per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is kept on smart­phones (from pic­tures to bank­ing de­tails), it makes a lot of sense to se­cure your de­vice. The prob­lem is many peo­ple never delve into the avail­able op­tions, or end up leav­ing holes in their se­cu­rity. To help out, we have put to­gether a guide on how to get the most from the se­cu­rity mea­sures al­ready baked into An­droid.

For this guide, we’re us­ing the Huaweimade Nexus 6P run­ning the lat­est ver­sion of An­droid — 7.1.1. While older ver­sions of An­droid (or cus­tomised op­tions from spe­cific man­u­fac­tur­ers) won’t quite have the same op­tions, many fea­tures are still avail­able.

It should go with­out say­ing, but make sure your OS is up to date, as Google fre­quently releases new ver­sions to patch se­cu­rity is­sues.


Even with­out your ac­tual smart­phone, your Google ac­count is open to at­tack. First up, make sure you have a strong pass­word that is not used any­where else. The next step is to turn on two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion, if you have not al­ready. With it en­abled, every time you sign into your Google ac­count, it will send a code to your phone, which also has to be en­tered. This en­sures that, if your pass­word is com­pro­mised, no one can ac­cess your ac­count with­out the code.

While slightly less se­cure, but con­ve­nient, you can also set it so that, once signed in on a de­vice, it is re­mem­bered, and two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion is not needed again. To turn it on, head to your ac­count set­tings ( my­ac­count., then ‘Sign-in & se­cu­rity’ and fol­low the prompts.


With­out some sort of lock, there’s noth­ing stop­ping some­one ac­cess­ing your per­sonal data, copy­ing pic­tures or worse. Adding a pin code is a good idea, but is an­noy­ing to have to en­ter every time. Most new An­droid phones

now have fin­ger­print scan­ners, which make the process much sim­pler, but are still not 100% has­sle free. If you’re hav­ing prob­lems get­ting a re­li­able un­lock, we rec­om­mend us­ing your ring or pinky fin­ger in­stead of the in­dex, as they tend to pick up less dirt that can stop the print from scan­ning. To set up a pin or fin­ger­print, head to ‘Set­tings > Se­cu­rity’.

One big mis­take (that we are guilty of as well) is al­low­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions on the lock screen when us­ing a pin or fin­ger­print. The prob­lem is that two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion mes­sage codes can be dis­played on the lock screen with­out the phone be­ing un­locked, compromising se­cu­rity. The op­tion to turn it on and off is dur­ing PIN or fin­ger­print setup, or via ‘Set­tings > Se­cu­rity’.


This built in se­cu­rity op­tion al­lows you to re­motely lo­cate, ring, lock and erase your phone. The An­droid De­vice Man­ager app should al­ready be in­stalled, oth­er­wise grab it from Google Play ( Open­ing the app and log­ging in gives ac­cess to the op­tions, but re­mote man­age­ment is via Chrome. A quick way to get ac­cess is to sim­ply search in Google (when logged into your ac­count) “where is my phone” or sim­i­lar.


In the­ory, it is pos­si­ble for data to be ex­tracted from a lost or stolen phone, even when locked or pow­ered off. To help im­prove se­cu­rity, An­droid has built-in en­cryp­tion — on many de­vices, it is turned on by de­fault. This means that your data has an­other layer of pro­tec­tion and can’t be read, even if copied. En­cryp­tion can slow the per­for­mance of your phone slightly, and once en­crypted, the only way back is via a fac­tory re­set. To check or en­able en­cryp­tion, head to ‘Set­tings > Se­cu­rity’ and tap ‘En­crypt phone’.


Pin or fin­ger­print un­locks are good se­cu­rity, but can be frus­trat­ing when at home or out and about. An­droid has a built-in smart lock sys­tem that can help, by au­to­mat­i­cally un­lock­ing in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. For ex­am­ple, it can be set to be un­locked when­ever you are at home, or an­other spe­cific lo­ca­tion, such as work. It can also be un­locked when con­nected to a spe­cific Blue­tooth de­vice, such as in the car, or us­ing an NFC tag. It can even be set to recog­nise your face, voice or walk­ing pat­terns and will lock when not on your per­son. Head to ‘Set­tings > Se­cu­rity’ and then tap ‘Smart Lock’ (you will need a lock screen setup first).


For those who use their phone for work, ‘Work Mode’ sets up a ded­i­cated pro­file for busi­ness and per­sonal con­tent. To ac­cess the work pro­file (or vice versa), you need to in­put your pass­word, keep­ing your data se­cure. It also means that no per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is ac­ces­si­ble if hand­ing it over to IT, and the busi­ness side can be re­motely wiped with­out af­fect­ing your per­sonal data. Setup is ideally done by your IT depart­ment, or down­load the Google Apps De­vice Pol­icy App (


Locks and pass­words are all well and good, but once un­locked, it’s easy for some­one to get ac­cess to your other data. To help make lend­ing your phone safer, you can lock a spe­cific app to the screen, and your PIN is needed to ac­cess any­thing else. For ex­am­ple, you might lend your phone for some­one to make a call, but pin the di­aller app so noth­ing else can be ac­cessed. To turn it on, head to ‘Set­tings > Se­cu­rity > Screen pin­ning’. Once turned on, you can pin a screen by hit­ting the Over­view but­ton (bot­tom right), then swip­ing up and se­lect­ing the pin icon.


While An­droid’s built-in se­cu­rity is pretty good, there are plenty of apps avail­able that of­fer ex­tra fea­tures. For ex­am­ple, you can re­motely take pic­tures when track­ing a phone, or pass­word lock spe­cific apps. They can also pro­tect against mal­ware, po­ten­tially un­se­cure Wi-Fi net­works and give ad­vice on app per­mis­sions. One of the most fully fea­tured (but ad sup­ported) is McAfee Se­cu­rity ( or for a to­tally free op­tion, try Sophos Free An­tivirus and Se­cu­rity (

Track, ring, lock and even erase your phone re­motely with An­droid’s built-in de­vice man­ager.

Set­ting a fin­ger­print or PIN code is a good way to help im­prove your An­droid se­cu­rity.

Free third-party apps such as McAfee Se­cu­rity pro­vide a wealth of ex­tra se­cu­rity op­tions for An­droid.

When us­ing a lock screen, make sure to turn no­ti­fi­ca­tions off, oth­er­wise some can still be pre­viewed with­out the phone un­locked.

Screen pin­ning locks your phone to a spe­cific app, which helps pro­tect your data when shar­ing your de­vice.

Smart Lock au­to­mat­i­cally un­locks your phone when in a ‘safe’ lo­ca­tion, such as at home or when con­nected to your car’s Blue­tooth.

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