The Android platform offers a ton of flexibility and customization for users. However, all that freedom does come at a price, vulnerability. Android is the favorite mobile operating system for about 40% of American smartphone users. In countries other than the U.S., that percentage is much higher. Although smartphone security has not kept pace with that of computers and servers, hackers are ramping up their attacks on mobile devices. Therefore, consumers need this guide to protect themselves, their data, and their phones.
Android Smartphones Security Settings
When selecting a smartphone, do your research and make sure you are buying one that offers a flavor of Android with secure protection. Look for the option to encrypt your data. Make sure your phone vendor releases updates and patches quickly. Google makes sure all its phones (like the Pixel) gets updates the fastest. Take these additional steps to fully secure your mobile device:
- When setting up your new phone, turn on encryption. Depending on the version of Android and your phone, go to security settings and then navigate to Storage > Storage Encryption or Storage > Lock Screen and Security > Other Security Settings.
- Lock the phone using a PIN or password. Most smartphones now offer fingerprint or facial recognition to unlock. Those are the most secure types of protection specific to you.
- Sign up for two-factor authentication for your Google account.
How to Secure Android Phone: Passwords and PINs
When setting up passwords and PINs, consider that hackers have infiltrated a lot of companies and services that you use. Therefore, they already have some of your information found on the dark web. If you use weak passwords or PINs related to your birthdate or social security number, you could be putting your data at risk. Always use unique, hard-to-guess passwords and PINs on all your devices. The best password is a phrase using a combination of letters, symbols, and numbers. For example, the phrase: “I like baseball,” could be turned into a password like: 1Lik3b@5Ebal1. That is a very hard to guess, complex password, but because it is based on a phrase, it’s easier for you to remember.
Although it takes a tiny bit more time to unlock your phone, always set a lock password or PIN. This one tip could save you a lot of hassle down the road.
Do Android smartphones need antivirus?
Yes! One of the best ways to protect your Android device against cyberattacks is antivirus/anti-malware programs.
Best Antivirus for Android Smartphones
Some of the top-rated programs for Android are:
- Avast Mobile Security
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free
- McAfee Security & Power Booster Free
- Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus
- Sophos Free Antivirus and Security
- Norton Security and Antivirus
- Trend Micro Mobile Security & Antivirus
Some of these are free versions, and others require purchase. Even the free versions offer more protection than an Android phone without anything.
Always install apps from the Google Play store and trusted developers. If you install 3rd-party apps from websites, they could be infected with malware and infiltrate your phone upon install. Check reviews and user comments before installing any apps and be careful not to install anything from a sketchy company. Other things to keep in mind are:
- Check the permissions of apps. Don’t provide widespread permissions to apps that don’t need to access other areas of your phone.
- Ensure that you have a way to remotely wipe your phone if it gets stolen or lost. You can install a security app that will do this for you using the GPS locator.
Other Android Security Issues and Concerns
Always employ a good dose of common sense when using your Android smartphone. A little caution can go a long way. Some other security tips to remember are:
- Make regular backups of your mobile device and store them offline.
- Always apply updates and security patches immediately.
- Never connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Opening your bank app on a coffee shop Wi-Fi could cost you your savings.
- Before selling or discarding an old phone, factory reset it and wipe all the data.
- Report your lost or stolen phone to your wireless carrier.
For more information on how to keep your Android smartphone safe and secure, visit the Android security page.