Your Android device is one of the most technologically capable devices on the market. With a growing app store rivaling that of the iPhone, you have a wealth of applications to choose from and the freedom to adjust the user experience to your liking. That freedom comes with risk, and if you’re not careful you could end up with a virus or worse. If you’re concerned about the information on your phone, or just trying to learn the basics of Android security, read on for tips on keeping your smartphone safe.
Applications in Android
The Android operating system is designed with the goal of lowering the potential risk to a user. Google achieves this by controlling what an app can actually do to the operating system. This way, a developer’s permissions don’t have to take into account the complex back-end security needs of Android.
Android also runs all of its apps in sandboxes, meaning there is only so much damage an app can do to other elements of your phone. This is good for bank applications, where a breach in security on some other app could potentially lead to hackers grabbing your credentials. Unlike the iTunes store, Android apps are required to list the permissions the developer is requiring of a user before installation. Be sure that you thoroughly read each app’s permissions and understand what is required and why.
Viruses Do Exist
Any platform with enough users is going to become a target of hackers. It happened to YouTube and Facebook, it happened to iOS and it’s happening to Android too. The majority of smartphones worldwide are still on iOS, but those trends are changing. Samsung and other companies are creating attractive and feature-rich devices that rival the Apple iPhone. That makes Android security provisions a priority for manufacturers and users. This is why many of the cyber security giants, like Trend Micro (www.trendmicro.com), are offering mobile security apps built specifically for the Android OS. These Android security apps scan your phone for viruses, keep you protected in real-time and warn you when there are risks of intrusion to your device.
Be Careful What You Download
Unlike iTunes, the Android marketplace is an open store. That means any developer can put up any application for download. This sounds attractive from a development standpoint, but usability suffers when bogus apps try to leech user info. Apple scrutinizes the apps in its store, so rarely do applications actually cause breaches to security. Before you download applications in the Google Play Store:
- Read the developer name, and check the reviews from users.
- Be aware of any potential conflicts with your device (usually found in the comments or developer notes).
- Read the recent changes to the application so that you can be sure of what you’re downloading.
An app with five stars is not necessarily safe. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the process of deleting applications.
“Prey” is an open source application that uses geo-location and Wi-Fi to keep track of stolen or lost phones. You can remotely shut down your device, or wipe your data to keep your credentials safe. It’s free to download, and quite useful if a similar service is not offered by your carrier.
Keep The Device Handy
Imagine you’re at a restaurant, you get up to go to the bathroom and leave your phone on the table. Can you guarantee it will still be there when you get back? Most people find a permanent home for phones in their pockets, but the few who do leave their devices exposed risk data breaches. Data leaked from your device can include contact details, bank credentials, email and more. Don’t risk the safety of you or your contacts. Take the phone with you and stay safe!