In today’s digital age, everyone is at risk of a cyberattack. However, there are plenty of ways you can actively protect yourself to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands. Start with these tips for enhancing your Android phone security and keeping your data safe.
Keep Your Device Updated
One of the most prevalent threats with Android phones is the vulnerabilities that come with unpatched security flaws. The operating system is so popular that once bugs are revealed, hackers are more than eager to exploit them.
However, in 2016, only half of all Android devices received an update on their software. That’s only accounting for the operating system itself. It doesn’t count other apps you might have installed that could leave your phone open to hackers if you don’t keep the software updated.
Unfortunately, Google struggles with pushing out updates because they require cooperation from device manufacturers and cell carriers to get those updates out to users. Furthermore, older devices often aren’t compatible with the latest updates.
Therefore, it’s important to upgrade your device often and to accept any software updates offered by your carrier or by app developers.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is a great solution for adding an extra layer of security to your Android device and warding off attacks over public Wi-Fi. Numerous hacking threats present themselves when connecting to an unsecured network, such as at a coffee shop or hotel. Among them, hackers can set up their own seemingly trustworthy networks or hack into the public network to eavesdrop on your activity.
A VPN secures your phone from eavesdroppers by funneling your data through the service provider’s servers and encrypting these files. They even mask your IP address so that you can surf the Web anonymously. This means that even if hackers do get ahold of your data, they’d have to crack the encryption code to see what you’re doing online.
The best VPNs for Android cost as little as $5 per month or less, so it never hurts to invest in this simple security solution. TheBestVPN.com recommends using either Express VPN or Private Internet Access (both have smooth apps for Android).
Install Anti-Virus Software
Luckily, Android is pretty secure on its own. However, it never hurts to add an extra layer of protection. According to CNBC, only 14 percent of people install an antivirus software on their smartphones.
With the free and effective Avast Antivirus and Security app, there’s really no reason to go without antivirus software. This app will alert you of suspicious websites, phone calls, SMS messages, and even phishing attacks from your email. It even checks the security of public Wi-Fi networks when you connect to them, helps clean the junk from your phone, and provides app locking capabilities. Note that some of these features are only available on the premium version.
Be Careful What You Download
One of the biggest threats to Android users is third-party apps. Google does a pretty good job of vetting the apps available in the Google Play store, but they have no control over apps or other software you download outside their store.
Therefore, it’s best to stick to only the Google Play store. Check your device security settings, and make sure that you haven’t authorized your device to download apps from unknown sources.
Another thing to pay attention to is app permissions. Before downloading an app—even from the Google Play store—take a look at what permissions you’re allowing. In most cases, the permissions makes sense. For example, messaging apps need access to your camera so that you can send images over the app. In other instances, the simplest apps may ask for a whole list of permissions that they don’t really need in order to perform their intended function. Be wary of these apps.
If you’re not sure what permissions you’ve given to apps in the past, visit your settings and find “App Permissions” for more details. This option is available on Android Marshmallow and later.
Lock Your Screen
Hackers and viruses aren’t the only cyber security threats to worry about. You’re also at risk of in-person attacks, such as from someone you know or from a thief who’s stolen your phone. Taking advantage of simple security options like locking your screen can greatly reduce the risk of someone accessing your data.
According to CNBC, however, only 11 percent of people lock their screen with a PIN longer than 4 digits, an unlock pattern, or a password. With today’s latest devices, you can even lock your screen using your fingerprint or a facial recognition program.
All you have to do is head to your settings and find the screen lock option under “security” to mitigate the risk of thieves getting ahold of your data.
Set Up Device Recovery
While locking your screen is a great start for protecting your phone content, there’s another line of defense against warding off attacks on a lost or stolen device. This is what’s known as device recovery, a security technique that will locate and wipe your device when it’s been threatened. Many apps will even enable GPS remotely to find your device location or access your camera to take a picture of the thief.
Luckily, Google has already built this function into the Android system. Through Google’s Find My Device feature, you can log into your Google account from another computer and control your device remotely. Find My Device lets you:
- Locate your device
- View the battery level
- Force your lost phone to ring for five minutes, even if it’s been set to silent
- Lock the device remotely and display a message on the screen for anyone who finds the device
- Erase all your data
All you have to do to enjoy these default features is to connect your phone to your Google account. You most likely did this when you purchased and set up the phone. Note that Find My Device will only work if your device is turned on. Visit Find My Device in your Web browser to see which Android devices are connected to your Google account.
By applying these tips, you can go forward with peace of mind knowing that your Android phone is at low risk of hacks, viruses, and vulnerabilities from thieves.