Save Your Droid
Android devices are prone to malware attacks intended at stealing your personal and financial information. Read on to know how to prevent them.
Attackers are no longer eyeing only your desktops and laptops to steal data. Smartphones, which are loaded with your personal details, are on their radar, too. Apps and pop-ups can have malware and viruses installed on your smartphones, even before you realise it.
iOS and Windows devices are not as much at risk as Android devices. Given the penetration of Android phones in the market – according to research firm Gartner, Android dominates the smartphone market with 80.7 per cent share (in the fourth calendar quarter of 2015) – Google has been working continuously to enhance security for Android users using improved machine learning and event correlation to detect potentially harmful behaviour. According to the Google Security 2015 Annual Report, the company checked over six billion installed applications per day to prevent users from malware and other Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs).
There is a host of security protections and controls in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, including full disk encryption, Android security patch, verified bootloader and more; but only 7.5 per cent of Android smartphones run on Marshmallow OS. The rest still run on Lollipop and lower versions. Since your safety lies in your own hands (fingertips, actually), here’s how you can protect your smartphones from malware, viruses and harmful apps.
Avoid installing apps from unknown sources: Most of the viruses and malware are installed on Android devices through apps. Unlike Apple’s iOS, it isn’t restrictive in nature. You can install apps from Google Play Store, a third party store or even install .apk files. By default, Android devices have the option of installing data from unknown sources turned off, but can be turned on with a single tap. You should always install apps from Play Store or Amazon App Store because the incidence of downloading malicious apps on these stores is low. You should also avoid downloading .apk files of popular paid games and apps from Torrents and other sources, as there is a high probability of such files being harmful. They can gain access to your photos, contacts and personal information on other apps. You can prevent accidental app downloads from unknown sources by heading to Settings on your device, scrolling down to Security, and locating the option labelled Unknown Sources. Uncheck the box and you are done. A little research about the app developer can avert a possible threat.
Check app permissions: While downloading an app from the Play Store, a ‘Permissions’ window appears which we seldom pay attention to. Mostly, the permission window is not asking, but only informing you of the other data the app will access. For instance, if a battery app wants to access your contacts, photos and e-mails, it is unusual. Avoid installing such apps. Avoid opening unknown links: The Internet is a scary place. You leave traces of your personal information as you browse. Based on your search history, content is pushed to you through ads and sponsored posts, which you end up opening – something you should absolutely avoid. Opening links from unknown and dubious sites tend to install malwares without seeking your permission. They also direct you to a false screen – that looks similar to the real one – where you end up entering your credentials. The bot stores this information which is later misused.
Keep OS updated: An OS update
means improved software which includes fixing numerous security bugs and openings in the software. So, if you are still using an outdated OS, your device is more prone to attacks. Updating to the latest version will keep you safe. Install anti-virus and ad-block
ers: The golden rule to keep PCs virus-free applies to smart devices, too. Installing anti-virus, ad-blockers and pop-up blockers will save you from virus attacks and phishing. Norton Security, the most popular one, can be installed on a single device. One can go in for a deluxe or premium option which allows installation on up to 10 devices. Avast Mobile security includes device scanning, app scanning, and realtime protection, as also consistent anti-virus database updates, antitheft features, and the ability to remote-lock your device in case you lose it. You can block pop-up ads on Android using your built-in browser settings or by downloading a third- party ad-block browser or apps such as Ad-Blocker Plus. Recently, Opera integrated a native ad-blocker to its browser for Android smartphones which also makes browsing faster.
Log out of sites after transactions: Transactions on websites or mobile phones, although convenient, can pose a high risk. Always ensure that you enter your bank, credit or debit card details on verified sites only. Log out of the websites and close the window once the transaction is complete.
Browse in incognito mode: The incognito mode in the Chrome browser allows private browsing, without storing browsing history. Use this mode to log in to your bank account or a website on which you will be making a payment and entering your personal details. It is also advisable to delete your browsing history from time to time.
Change passwords regularly: Having the same password for all your accounts – including social networks, e-mail, and wallets – is a recipe for disaster. If someone gets hold of the password for one account, all your accounts are at risk. It is wise to have different passwords – unique passwords that no one can crack – for all your accounts. You should also consider changing your passwords every three months for security reasons. Never reuse your password. You can rely on password manager apps, as they lock your passcodes within an encrypted vault in order to minimise your vulnerability against attacks. They store all your passwords and all you need is the master password to get into it. Some of the popular password manager apps are LastPass, KeePass and Dashlane.