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.
PASSWORDS AND TWO-STEP VERIFICATION
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.
google.com), then ‘Sign-in & security’ and follow the prompts.
PIN LOCK AND FINGERPRINT SCANNING
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’.
ANDROID DEVICE MANAGER
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.
USING DEVICE ENCRYPTION
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’.
SETTING UP SMART LOCK
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.
THIRD-PARTY SECURITY APPS
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.