SECURE YOUR ANDROID DEVICE FROM THREATS
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DEFENDING YOUR ANDROID PHONE OR TABLET.
Everything you need to know about defending your Android phone or tablet.
INCREASINGLY, WE ARE storing and accessing our entire digital lives through a smartphone, and security is a growing issue. It’s not just personal information, but breaches can leave your bank accounts, credit card, or services open to attack. Fortunately, security on Android is generally excellent, and there are plenty of third-party options available for extra peace of mind.
Devices in active use, yet which are not kept updated, are one of the biggest Android security problems. In 2016, half the Android devices out there did not receive any updates, leaving them exposed to new vulnerabilities. It’s not just users falling behind on updates — many manufacturers don’t support older models for very long. Keep your Android device updated, or if updates are not available, consider upgrading to a newer model.
The second largest threat to Android security are malicious apps, which can do anything from harvest personal information, to pop up annoying ads. The vast majority of problem apps come from sources outside of the Google Play Store. In 2016, only 0.05% of Google Play store apps were compromised, so the vast majority of issues come from using third-party app stores. App stores such as Amazon are generally safe, but the numerous third-party stores (even the largest, such as getjar.com) are best avoided outright.
Links in SMS, email, apps or websites can be used to trick users into visiting a malicious page, or downloading a infected app or file. If someone else’s device is already infected, the messages can look like they are coming from a legitimate source. Getting infected yourself can result in anything from secret premium calls or text to rack up bills, to stealing personal information, or just popping up ads. The best way to avoid infection is to not visit any links that you don’t trust, especially from unknown sources, such as via SMS. Google does have inbuilt safe browsing in apps such as Chrome and Gmail, which can help provide protection, but are not foolproof.
Accessing an unsecured Wi-Fi network is an easy way to have your data snooped on or
harvested. Even supposedly safe, secure Wi-Fi networks can be compromised or fake. The best bet is to avoid Wi-Fi unless you know the source is safe (such as at home, or a friend’s house), or use a VPN. For Android, Hola VPN ( hola.org) is free and ideal for occasional use. Otherwise Windscribe ( windscribe.com) costs ~$5 per month, but can be used on unlimited devices (including a computer) with no bandwidth restrictions.
ACCOUNT AND PHYSICAL SECURITY
While malware is a big concern, the security of your Android device also depends on restricting outside access. Your smartphone should use a PIN or fingerprint security, and make sure notifications are not set to show up on your lock screen. Make sure any passwords (or PIN) used is not easy to guess, or reused across multiple accounts. Turn on two factor authentication for your Google account, as well as for services such as internet banking. It’s possible to see if a password has been compromised through a third-party hack on haveibeenpwned. com — change the password immediately and discontinue its use if so.
BUILT IN ANDROID SECURITY
Fresh out of the box, your device is already pretty secure. Google Play Protect is enabled by default on Android 7 phones, which checks 1 billion devices, and 8 billion apps every day, and removes anything malicious. Apps are sandboxed, devices are encrypted, and you can locate, lock, wipe or call your phone by typing “find my phone” into Google when signed into your account. Older devices as also protected by Google Play scanning, but not to the same level.
For those who want extra protection, there are loads of free and paid security apps. We have included a review of two of our favourite here, but there are plenty of other options with features that suit different users. A great way to compare how effective they are is with AV-Test’s Android security testing ( www.av-test.org), which compares features and rates each app.
Most third-party Android app stores should not be trusted, but Amazon is one worthy exception.
Google Play Protect is turned on by default on Android 7 devices and automatically scans for malicious apps.
Google’s built-in Find My Device service allows you to remotely track, call or erase your phone if it’s lost.
When connecting to an unknown Wi-Fi network, using a VPN is the best way to improve security.