SE­CURE YOUR AN­DROID DE­VICE FROM THREATS

EV­ERY­THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DE­FEND­ING YOUR AN­DROID PHONE OR TABLET.

TechLife Australia - - TEST BENCH - [ LIND­SAY HANDMER ]

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.

SE­CU­RITY UP­DATES

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.

MA­LI­CIOUS APPS

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.

PHISH­ING AT­TEMPTS

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.

WI-FI WOES

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.

SE­CU­RITY APPS

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.

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