Let’s face it, the world is a pretty scary place right now. That’s why it’s more essential than ever to stay connected with family, friends, and work mates.

While we feel secure sheltering inside our homes, not all external threats are protected by walls and social distancing. We want to be able to rely on secure, stable connections wherever we’re located.

Each year, there are more security risks targeting us than the previous year. Not only do we have to deal with new threats almost daily, hackers are coming up with innovative twists on old exploits.

How bad is the problem?

Here’s some Android security information that may surprise you.

Android Devices and Security

According to a study conducted at the University of Maryland, there is a new cyber attack launched every 39 seconds. What’s more, hackers are tailoring common PC exploits to reach smartphone users. For example, SMiShing is a new approach to phishing that uses your messaging platforms to insert malicious code into your phone.

The top risks to your mobile computing sessions are:

  1. Public WiFi
  2. Data leaks
  3. Phishing exploits
  4. Network spoofing
  5. Broken cryptography
  6. Spyware
  7. Improper sessions handling

With the right tools and information, you’ll have added layers of protection against hackers and other cyber threats.

Common Security Issues and How to Fix Them

Whether you’re streaming movies or using your smartphone to conduct business remotely, security is the number one concern. While no device is perfect, Android-powered phones are more secure than models using iOS. The most common security issues with Android devices center around access control and malicious apps.

There are 5 ways that you can harden your phone or tablet against the existing threats and beat the odds of suffering from whatever attacks develop in the future.

Practice Strong Access Control

This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how many people fail at the simple act of locking their phones. I know it’s a pain to remember a code or a pattern. However, it’s even more of a pain to lose your device and all of the information in it rather than to take a few seconds longer to call your mom.

Believe it or not, the simplest ways to control access are still the most effective. Choose a pin that’s easy to remember without resorting to insecure, easy-to-guess pins like birthdays, phone numbers, or the last four digits of your SS number. Make sure to choose a different pin for each device and change them once a month or so. The same goes for passwords.

You can use a password manager to create and store strong passwords. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is a viable option, and most devices have this capability built into the system. You could also use Google’s own 2FA. Many models include built-in device encryption that you can access through your settings. Simply go to Settings>Security>Encrypt Device and follow the directions.

Another important consideration for stronger access control are authorized apps that could potentially allow third parties to gain access to your financial accounts. Authorized apps are given varying levels of control over email accounts and logins. We recommend using secure invoicing and financial apps if authenticating with a bank account or email address. Vulnerabilities in the authorized app can create larger security issues.

Remember That Who Makes Your Phones and Apps Matters

Google releases regular smartphone security patches. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers release them right away. Some don’t bother to release them at all.

It may be tempting to purchase a phone because it’s cheap or aesthetically appealing, but it’s more important to choose a model from a manufacturer you can trust. That means buying a phone from a company that puts customer security first.

Keep in mind that it’s not just phone manufacturers that you should concern you. Thousands of unsecured apps are released on the market each day. Consider whether any app you use is necessary before installing it on your phone, and only use apps from reliable developers that offer regular support and security patches. As for apps that are just fun but not critical to your daily life, think twice about platforms like Facebook and popular games that are not always secure, but are often invasive. Do they really need access to your phone, contacts, and cameras in order to function?

Delete any apps you’re not using rather than simply disabling them. This will not only remove access from hackers, it will free up some of your phone’s resources and improve performance.

As an alternative to downloading apps from Play Store, consider a platform like F-Droid that has a large catalog of open source apps and doesn’t sell your info third parties. If you are downloading apps from Play Store, make sure to enable Google Play Protect in your settings. Just go to Setting>Security>Play Protect and enable full scanning via the Scan device for security threats option.

Use the Right Security Tools

Most Android devices include hidden security features that not a lot of people are aware of or use. Don’t be afraid to explore your system and put them to good use to secure your tablet or phone. Make sure to also deploy tried-and-true tools like properly configured firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware apps, and anti-malware scanners. Keep all device firmware and software up to date.

Will Ellis from Privacy Australia explains further:

“The number one way that you can protect your information is by installing a VPN from a reputable company. This allows you to browse securely while masking your identity, location, and activity from prying eyes and cyber criminals. Using suspiciously cheap or free VPN services is dangerous because that means your data is being sold on the Dark web or to the advertisers. Make sure you choose a VPN with a strong encryption protocol – IKEv2, OpenVPN, and SoftEther are considered to be the most secure nowadays.”

Other ways to protect yourself is by using a secure browser, like TOR’s Obit or the private search engine, DuckDuckGo.

Secure Your Messaging Platforms

One of the most common uses of smartphones is messaging. This is an area where you have to worry about more than hacking. Government agencies and some employers also try to access messaging platforms to spy on citizens and employees. The most popular of these is WhatsApp, which is supposed to be an encrypted platform owned by Facebook. However, they have been legally allowed to track and release user data for more than a decade.

Instead of following the crowd, consider private messaging systems like Signal, which is free, or a low-cost messaging app like Threema.

Backup, Backup, Backup

We can’t stress enough how important it is to backup your databases. This is a solution for a worst-case scenario, but it will make recovering contacts and other important files, like those vacation videos and pics of your kids, easier when you replace your device. Your phone has a built-in backup and restore function that’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Just make sure to inform banks and credit card companies if your device is stolen, and change any passwords and login information.

Final Thoughts

In a time when most of us rely on our smartphones and tablets for staying connected, entertainment, work, and education, remember to put safety first. Our tips and recommendations are designed to work on virtually any Android-powered device.

We hope you’ll continue to enjoy your device with confidence wherever you are. Stay safe!

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