Your Guide To Android Security Settings
Your Guide To Android Security Settings
As it stands, Android is the most popular phone operating system in the world, with just over 71% of global phones running Google’s premier operating system. It doesn’t just stop at phones either. Android is used on tablets and even some of Google’s Chromebook laptops. Overall, it’s a versatile, easy-to-use OS, that offers a good balance of simplicity, flexibility, and security.
The latter is what we’ll be talking about today.
Although Android can be a highly secure operating system, it’s all left up to the user to decide how they’ll go about making their device more or less secure. When you’re first setting up your Android, the setup wizard will give you a few tips to make your device more secure, but you aren’t required to follow any of the advice.
To be fair, some people just want a simple, non-secured phone that’s always unlocked. Perhaps it’s not used to store sensitive app data or maybe it’s just used to pick up the occasional phone calls. We’d be willing to bet that most people need to improve their Android security, though.
Below, we’ll share our complete guide to Android security settings and what practices you can employ to reduce the likelihood of your device being compromised!
Your Phone Is A Personal Security Risk | Here’s Why
Let’s be completely honest here; if you’re like most people, then your phone holds the key to your entire life. You likely have private photos and videos that you wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see. You also probably have banking, email, and financial apps on your phone that allow you to access all of your accounts.
Not exactly the type of things that you want falling into the wrong hands, right?
Despite the security risk that most people’s Androids are, though, many Android’s are woefully unsecured. For instance, if you were at a bar and left your phone on the bar top while you went to the bathroom, a nearby cybercriminal could open your phone, log into your bank account, and transfer all of your funds into an offshore bank account in less than 3 minutes.
Pretty scary, right?
How To Improve Your Android’s Security
That being said, we’re not here to scare you; we’re here to show you how to improve your Android’s security. So, even if you do accidentally leave your phone out or somebody manages to steal your device, your personal data and information will be as secure as possible.
Make Sure Your OS Is Up To Date
The first thing you should do is make sure that you have the latest version of Android. If your phone has automatic updates turned on, then your phone is probably already up to date. It will usually download and install updates during times when you’re least active on your phone (i.e., when you’re at school or while you’re sleeping late at night).
However, some people have their automatic updates feature turned off. If it’s turned off, then this means you’ll need to manually download and install each update. This can be done by navigating to Settings > Search > Software Update, where you can see the latest version of your Android OS and if there’s a newer version to download.
The reason some people have automatic updates turned off is that new updates can sometimes slow down an older Android. However, in our opinion, a slightly slower phone is well worth a more secure device.
Phones can always be updated and replaced; your privacy can’t.
Use A Strong Phone Lock
We’re always surprised how many Android users have a simple “1234” password on their phone or no password at all. Sure, a simple password like this may prevent your phone from opening up in your pocket, but it will do nothing against a hacker or phone thief whose first instinct will be to enter easy-to-guess passwords.
When it comes to setting a phone lock on your Android, you’ll have several options:
- Numerical password lock.
- Pattern lock (connect the dots).
- Fingerprint lock.
- Face ID lock.
Based on most tests and studies, a fingerprint lock is the strongest phone lock you can use. While numerical password locks may be the simplest, they’re also the easiest to guess. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a motivated hacker or scammer who’s been able to guess certain numerical details of your life, such as birthdays, street addresses, or “lucky” numbers.
Pattern locks can prove some basic security against a stranger or a cyber hacker. However, all it takes is somebody sitting next to you and watching you a few times to easily remember your pattern and use it the second they get a chance to steal your phone.
For the most part, facial recognition locking is safe. However, there have also been reports of motivated hackers being able to use high-quality photos they find on social media to unlock a stranger’s phone. Facial recognition can also be a pain if you’re required to wear a face mask for work or school.
All of these are reasons why we generally recommend using a fingerprint scanner. Fingerprint scanners are much harder to bypass, as fingerprints are completely unique. Unless you’re dealing with an extremely talented data thief who knows how to lift fingerprints, it’s virtually impossible for somebody to access sensitive data on your phone.
Download An Android-Compatible Anti-Virus Program
One of the best things you can do to protect your Andoird against external threats is to use an Android-compatible anti-virus program like Lookout Security. This program will routinely scan your phone for viruses and malware and will scan all new downloads for viruses before allowing them to be downloaded onto your phone.
The app can also be used to remotely control your phone in the event that it is stolen. You can log into your Lookout account from another device or your computer and will be able to remotely erase your data or remotely shut your device down, making it impossible for the thief to turn on your device or open your phone, in the first place.
Download The ‘Find My Device’ App
Even the best of us lose our phones from time to time…
When we do, it can be pretty scary. This is why you should always download Android’s ‘Find My Device’ app on your phone. This app allows you to log in using your Google account and will show you the GPS location of your phone (if it’s turned on). If you have your GPS turned off, you can also play a sound on your phone that will bypass any silent mode that you have activated, allowing you to hear your phone’s location.
Find My Device will also show you the name of the wi-fi network that your phone is connected to. So, even if your GPS is turned off, you may be able to surmise its location by looking at the name and IP address of the wi-fi network it’s using.
Use A VPN To Protect Your Online Data
When was the last time you connected your phone to a public wi-fi network? Whenever you’re using a public wi-fi network at a school, cafe, restaurant, library, etc., your device is vulnerable to hacks and data theft by individuals who are monitoring your private internet traffic.
The best way to protect yourself from this is to encrypt all of your traffic with a VPN service like NordVPN (which has a handy Android version). This will re-route all of your internet data through an external server that’s secured with military-grade encryption and impossible to hack into.
Monitor App Permissions
You’d be surprised just how many apps request crazy amounts of permission that they simply don’t need… From time to time it’s always a good idea to navigate to your app permissions settings menu and double-check which apps have which type of permission. Although many apps won’t use your data against you, there are plenty of less reputable applications that literally sell your private data on the side to make money.
Don’t Download Questionable Apps
This goes hand in hand with the last piece of advice about monitoring your app permissions. As a general rule, you should always avoid downloading questionable apps. Whether it’s a game or something that seems useful, always take the time to read some of the app reviews to make sure there aren’t any reports of data theft, viruses, or excessive crashing.
Use Your GPS Location Sparingly
Your phone’s GPS location feature is great and it allows you to use your Maps navigation and other apps that use a mapping/location feature. However, there are many apps that also track your location in the background and sell it to third parties or use it to advertise to you in the future. This is why we generally recommend turning your GPS off unless you specifically need it for a certain app.
If you can follow all of the tips we’ve outlined in this guide, then we guarantee that your Android will be a lot safer than most people’s. If you’re looking for a good Android-compatible VPN, then check out this list of the best VPN services for Androids.
Also, don’t forget to download Lookout Security (and sign up for a basic subscription), and download Android’s free ‘Find My Device’ app from the app store!