13 Ways to Secure Your Android Phone From All Kinds of Threats

Updated on 2019-03-13 by Geetansh Arora


13 different ways to secure your android smartphone from hackers, virus and theft

We tend to ignore others saying that there’s danger lurking everywhere we go because they sound like crazy conspiracy theorists. And let’s be real – most of the time we are right in thinking so. But when it comes to cybersecurity, especially for Android devices, we might need to reconsider and listen carefully. In this article, we take a look at 13 different ways to protect your Android phone from hackers, virus/malware and theft.

Cyber attacks are now a problem for the whole internet community, with daily attacks becoming the norm. And it’s not just aimed at corporations or PCs either. The everyday average individual is a soft target for attackers because they don’t consider themselves to be in danger. Even when they know about best practices in cybersecurity.

The fact remains that most people think it can’t happen to them. In truth, a person will be targeted at least once in their lifetime, and most people many times more than that.

 

Why do People Become Targets of Cyberattacks?

Android users are at particular risk of being targeted by malicious characters because these devices are so popular. It’s important for an attacker to invest their time and skills into a venture that is as profitable as possible. Stealing and profiting off one person’s data or identity is nothing when they can get access to thousands or millions of devices.

Another factor that escalates the risk for Android users is the fact that manufacturers don’t update the software as often as they should. The latest version of Android can take months to be implemented and sometimes never arrive. Most Android devices only receive security updates for around two years at most. And since people tend to keep their phones for much longer than that, it may lead to a disaster if they cannot access the latest security patches.

Another big motivator is the companies people work for. Many attackers don’t care about the individual but rather what information they can get to. Most corporate employees use their phones at work: to check email, access the company intranet, or have a quick video chat meeting. When that phone is compromised, all of the info they’re sending or receiving can be seen by an outsider. 

Even more alarming fact is that the attacker can get access to the company’s intranet through unwillingly provided login details. They are then free to do whatever they want with all of the valuable info they find. Because most companies take around 191 days to realize there has been a breach.

A person doesn’t have to send company information over their phone to be at risk either. An unsecured mobile phone that connects to the company WiFi can also be dangerous – it’s just a quick hop from the phone onto the network itself.

 

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What Security Risks do Android Users Face?

These days, people have their entire lives on display on the internet. That includes not only those questionable photos from last year’s office party but sensitive private information too. Online shopping and banking have made it very convenient to conduct every transaction in digital form. But that comes with significant risks if people don’t take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

Malware and social engineering (phishing) make up the majority of cyber attacks. Malware made up 49% of the most common types of cyber attacks in 2018 while social engineering came in second at 25%. Both can be exceptionally crippling, and the damage happens fast once the attacker gains access to the device.

These exploiters can do all sorts of things with the information they glean, from selling people’s identities to blackmailing them. Once an attacker has access to a phone, they can see everything a person is doing on it. They can also use the camera and microphone – criminals are unscrupulous about invading personal space.

List of 13 Ways to Secure Your Android Phone from Virus/Malware, Hackers, and Theft

Some would say Android is one of the best mobile operating systems out there. No arguments here. But no OS is perfect, and hackers can be very motivated. There’s no denying that Android developers are doing their best to keep up with the threats and they do great work. Yet it’s up to the users themselves to make sure their smartphones are safe. 

Mobile security isn’t just about implementing fancy tricks and tools. It’s also about building a habit of doing safe things every day. It’s entirely possible for simple preventative measures to be effective. 

Here’s a big list of tips and tools that will help any Android user make their phone secure from virus/malware, hackers, and theft. This list includes common cybersecurity practices that many people may have heard of before. But sometimes repetition can’t hurt, especially if it drives the point home.

1.    Set up a Smart Lock

It’s as simple as that, really. Smart locks have been around for years now yet somehow people still fail to set them up. Don’t be like them – just do it. Setting up a smart lock on an Android phone is easy to do and takes a couple of seconds. But it could spare months of misery in case your phone gets stolen.

The method of setting up a smart lock varies from one Android manufacturer to another. However, it generally goes something like this: Settings > Lock screen & Security > Screen Lock. The location and/or terminology might slightly differ from one model to another, but this is the basic idea.

What type of smart lock should you use? That can is your personal choice. Smartphones offer many options these days – biometrics, the knock pattern, drawing a pattern, or the good old pin code. Lots of arguments can be found for one or the other type. But the general consensus is that any smart lock is better than none. 

 

2.    Use Two-Factor Verification

Long gone are the days where simply using a password makes something very secure. If those days ever existed in the first place.  Instead, many companies are relying on two-factor authentication to add another layer of security on top of the usual password login method. This trend is growing rapidly, and most popular apps, financial websites, and software clients now use two-factor authentication.

image of two factor authentication

There are two ways to set up a two-factor authentication login if the app vendor or website allows it. Having a randomized number sent via email or text, or using biometrics. By far the most popular of the two is the randomized number method. Mainly because it’s the simplest and most widely available way to go about things. 

But biometrics are becoming an increasingly popular way to use in two-factor verification. Especially as more smartphones with fingerprint and face scanners are flooding the market.

 

3.    Secure all Google Accounts

Google apps are an inseparable part of the Android operating system. Making sure that an Android device’s Google accounts are secure is one of the most important steps on this list. That’s where all of the synced user data is stored after all.

This step is not only important for keeping the data on the phone safe, but also for other security measures to work. For instance, when using two-factor verification on any other apps or websites that are linked to a Google email address. A compromised Google email account will render those security measures useless as well.

Ironically, the best way to secure all Google Accounts is through two-factor authentication. But it deserved a separate mention due to how important it is in this case. To set up two-step verification on a Google account through Android, do the following:

●    Go to the Google Account settings (they can be found in the settings tab in Gmail)
●    Go to the “Security” tab
●    Click on “Two-Step Verification”
●    Also, make sure to enable sign-in notifications

Here's a direct link to Secure your Google Account.

 

4.    Turn on Find My Phone

Again, a simple trick that almost everyone is aware of, but so few people actually do. This is important, however, because people don’t just face threats from cyber attackers on the internet. 

Theft is still a very genuine danger and without this feature turned on, most people have almost zero chances of recovering their phone. Or, if need be, remotely reset it so the thief won’t find any valuable info. 

To find the “Find My Phone” settings, go to Settings > General > Lock screen & Security > Find My Device. Again, the terms and location might differ a bit from one smartphone model to the next.

 

5.    Get a Password Manager

Let’s be honest. Most people don’t follow good password practices, even though they know that they should. Likely, it’s due to the “it won’t ever happen to me” mentality. But hackers can and will take advantage if they get the opportunity.

One promising solution is password managers. This software lets people continue doing what they’re already doing – remember a single password.

Instead of using that one password for everything, it’s used to open the ‘vault’ of passwords in the manager. It also has to be long and complicated. The generated passwords stored safely within the password manager can be used for any account and are hard to crack.

 

6.    Use Only the Best VPNs for Android

Virtual private networks used to be popular only among PC and laptop users, but not anymore. VPN technology is taking the mobile industry by storm and providing secure browsing and online anonymity along the way.

A VPN is a service that uses encryption protocols and other security methods to keep a connection secure. This keeps outsiders (including ISPs) from getting access to any data that is sent over the connection.

There are many VPN services out there, but not all of them are equally good. The best VPN providers will have an app that is compatible with various platforms and offers a lot of tweaking options. 

These features can include things like changing protocols, choosing different servers, a killswitch, and other manual settings options. Some VPNs offer malware and ad blockers, ways to get around firewalls, and workarounds in case of connection drops. 

Finding a good VPN for your Android smartphone also has a lot to do with how user-friendly it’s app interface is. So when choosing a VPN provider do your research and make sure you picked the best one. 


7.    Buy From Manufacturers Who Release Updates Quickly

Not all smartphone manufacturers are equally concerned about getting updates distributed across their models as fast as possible. Google, for instance, has built a well-earned reputation for updating their phones with the latest security patches as they’re released.

image of google security update on android phone

But some manufacturers let things slide a bit and only send updates or security patches months later – if at all. And some budget models and older smartphones tend to be neglected a lot when it comes to updates.

This is a huge security issue. By the time a new security patch arrives, cyber attackers could do a lot of damage to thousands of users and their devices. Google is trying to improve this by Project Treble and partnering with manufacturers to launch Android One phones like Mi A2, Nokia 6.1 Plus, and Moto One Power.

 

8.    Disable Certain Settings

One of the most significant advantages of getting an Android phone is the flexibility and manual settings its OS offers. However, playing around with all of these settings can cause some security problems if the person doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Similarly, some settings that are left unchecked can leave holes for hackers to exploit. So it’s better to disable some of these settings if they aren’t being used.

The first is “Unknown Sources” or “Install Unknown Apps.” This setting allows a person to install apps that don’t come from the Google Play Store. It’s generally considered a bad idea since these apps can’t be vetted. This setting tells Android to ignore security protocols when installing an app. It is usually turned off, but just in case, check for it here: Settings > General > Apps > Install Unknown Apps. The terminology or location might differ from one model to another.

Another setting to disable, if it’s not being used, is “Developer Mode.” This mode is great for accessing advanced options and some people do use it. But it also opens up vulnerabilities that make it easier for malware to hop on board. It can also be dangerous to tinker around with the settings if the person doesn’t know what they’re doing.

 

9.    Only Download Apps From the Google Play Store

Supporting unknown or small-scale developers is a noble aspiration. However, it’s also a big risk. Which is why most people should stick to the Google Play Store unless they know the developers or site they’re downloading from well.

The most common way for malware to find itself on an Android phone is through unsecured third-party apps. The fault doesn’t necessarily even lie with the developer but with weak encryption and users giving apps permissions to access their phones. This makes it easy for hackers to get into the phone through the unsecure app.

Google has been working hard to make sure that only safe apps appear on the Play Store. Of course, some dangerous products do slip through now and then. But they’re singular occurrences and Google is always developing new ways to make their vetting process even better.

 

10.    Be Careful With App Permissions 

Sometimes an app will ask strange permissions that shouldn’t have anything to do with its functionality. That’s usually a red flag. A chess game app shouldn’t need access to the phone’s camera, recorder, contacts, messages, and so forth.

Don’t allow unnecessary app permissions. And if the app doesn't want to work because of that, then try a different one. This is an important step if you want to secure your phone from hackers.

 

11.    Make Sure Google Play Protect is On

Play Protect is a feature of Google Play that scans the Android device to see whether any apps are misbehaving. It’s a great feature that can help protect the phone through routine scans to make sure that there isn’t any malware hiding around.

image of google play protect

It also works for third-party apps that are not from the Google Play Store. To find and manually request a thorough scan, go here: Settings > Security > Play Protect. Again it’s location might differ a bit from one device to another.

 

12.    Install Anti-Virus Software

Installing anti-virus software is a good idea for anyone who is serious about their phone security and want to secure your phone from viruse and malware. It might not be as important for anyone who isn’t too bothered about having the best security money can buy. That's because it’s relatively rare for a phone to be targeted by viruses, though malware is much more common.

Just make sure to download a reputable, paid anti-virus app as the free ones are likely to be malware themselves. Here are some of the best ones by Android Authority.

 

13.    Uninstall Any Unused Apps

If you’re not using it, lose it. 

Apps that only take up space on your phone are potential security risks. Especially if these apps aren’t often updated with the latest security patches. It’s best to have as few as possible entry points for attackers, and unsecured apps are one of the ways they get in.

 

So these were the 13 ways to secure your Android phone from hackers, virus and theft. The Android OS might not be considered as secure as Apple’s iOS, but it’s still a great operating system and beloved by many. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make sure that an Android phone stays as secure as possible. Most of them aren’t even much effort and simply come down to forming good safety habits.

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5



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