Save Your Droid

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - COVER STORY - By Nidhi Sin­gal

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.

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