Technology is evolving rapidly, but with it comes new threats to mobile security. Whereas many of us are wise to the dangers on our home computers, priming them with firewalls and antivirus software, less of us pay attention to security on our phones.
The rise in mobile malware suggests that cybercriminals have taken notice, and are capitalizing on this oversight. At the same time, companies are using more intrusive methods to track our behavior and collect data about us.
With so much of our lives now on our phones, it’s easy to feel vulnerable. Fortunately, though, there is plenty you can do to improve mobile data security and protect your personal privacy. Let’s take a look at the most common threats faced by Android users, and some easy, but effective, ways to keep yourself safe.
Use the screen lock
Your first line of defense in keeping your phone and all of its contents safe is to enable the screen lock. The chances of losing your phone or having it stolen are far greater than the odds of being targeted by hackers, so protecting it with a PIN is a no brainer.
If entering a PIN seems like too much trouble, the Smart Lock feature on Android allows your phone to remain unlocked whenever you are in a trusted place, such as at home, so staying protected is now even simpler.
Don’t ignore updates
Google is in a constant battle with hackers and cybercriminals to stay one step ahead. When vulnerabilities are discovered in Android’s security features, Google releases a security patch to shore them up. You should monitor updates and install them as soon as they are released. Ignoring or delaying them essentially means your device is prone to attack.
One particular problem with Android security, however, is the speed at which device manufacturers release updates after Google makes them available.
Unsurprisingly, Google is at the forefront when it comes to making sure its smartphones get new security patches quickly. Although many other manufacturers have reduced the time it takes to make updates available, there is still some disparity between them. Speed of support for mid-range and older devices also varies considerably, so it pays to choose your vendor and your device carefully.
Install antivirus software
Although it’s wise to always stay on top of updates, you can bolster your security by installing and using a good mobile antivirus package. Look for one which offers a firewall to prevent anything malicious getting in without you knowing about it, plus comprehensive device scanning and file quarantine to flag and remove anything suspicious you may have accidentally downloaded.
Use a virtual private network
Public WiFi is available everywhere nowadays, from cafes and restaurants, to train stations and airports, and even on some flights. It’s highly likely that you’ll want to make use of free WiFi at some point, but public WiFi networks are notoriously insecure and can be hotspots for hackers as a result.
To protect yourself even on poorly secured public networks, use a VPN to secure your connection with encryption and convert it from the public to private. This extra layer of security prevents third parties from seeing your information and is especially important when you’re accessing online shopping or banking websites from an unsecured WiFi network.
Only use apps from the Google Play Store
Fake or malicious apps are a particular source of worry for Android users, but the majority of them can be avoided by only downloading apps from the Google Play Store.
Although Google puts a lot of effort into ensuring Play Store security with features such as Play Protect, it’s not 100% foolproof. Before downloading anything new, a little bit of investigation goes a long way. Fake versions of well-known apps may look genuine from their description and logo, but if they only have a small number of reviews and downloads, or are developed by someone other than the brand they claim to be, something might be up.
Enable Google Play Protect
Although Google does everything it can to keep the Play Store safe, occasionally the odd malicious app does slip through the net. Google Play Protect is a cloud-based security system which constantly scans your device for malware or any signs of suspicious behavior, and alerts you if it finds anything unusual.
It should be automatically enabled on your device, but you can double-check by going to Settings>Google>Security>Play Protect.
Pay attention to app permissions
Be wary of apps that request permissions which don’t tie up with their intended use. Not only can this compromise your privacy and the security of your data, but it can even be a sign that an app is a fake.
It is easy to check the permissions you have granted to existing apps within the ‘Apps & Notifications’ section of your phone’s settings. For example, consider whether an app needs access to your contacts, location, or microphone to complete its function properly. If something looks unusual, revoke its permission.
It’s not all doom and gloom
While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the growing threat of cybercriminals and companies that increasingly encroach on our privacy, with a few simple tweaks and a little common sense, we can protect ourselves.
Make sure to stay current with updates, use security software, avoid unauthorized apps or third-party app stores, and pay attention to new downloads. With these simple safeguards in place, you can continue to use your device while keeping your data secure, and your information private.