Android security unlike Apple’s iPhone which provides a more secure platform for its users, Android in comparison to its counterpart lacks the security because of the way in which Google Play functions. Developers are allowed to upload their Apps without any restrictions in Google Play. Irrespective of whether the app would work or not, or if it would cause harm to the users. Google Play entirely ignores all this. There are no measures undertaken to check the quality of the apps. In recent times, however, Google has taken the initiative with its, “Play Protect Program”. One thing is for sure, you are never entirely out of harm’s way, but there are specific steps you can take to prevent the worst case scenario. By getting access to secure technology, making the right choices and staying alert you can prevent malicious apps from attacking your device. Sadly, these tips won’t eliminate the harm, but it will considerably lower the risks involved.
You Can’t Trust Google Play Protect
Google Play Protect is a program created to prevent malware and other malicious programs from attacking a user. However, according to a test conducted by AV-Test, “a Magdeburg, Germany-based security firm”, has confirmed that Google Play Protect fails to meet the cut. Among twenty programs that were considered only Google Play Protect, failed to satisfy the requirements. From all the things thrown at it during its test, GPP was able to detect only “63% of real-world malware” and “71% of reference data malware”. GPP may not be the usual antivirus program, but the fact remains that it allows the malicious apps that are lurking in Google Play to find its way into our device. GPP fails to eliminate the danger. It is also not advisable to download any antivirus as there were instances of antivirus apps causing harm instead of offering protection. One such case was the misuse of private information by the developers of DU Antivirus Security, who used customer information for commercial profit. Always do thorough research before downloading any antivirus. It is better to avoid having any antivirus app than to download one which would take up your phone space, slow down your device and delete caches and data without your consent.
Keeping Your Apps and Firmware Up to Date
The first and foremost thing you can do to keep yourself protected from hackers is to keep all your phone software up to date. Try and install the updates as soon as it is online without wasting much time. It can get annoying when your apps ask for update time and again. Also, the data consumption can be another factor discouraging you to update your software, but keep in mind not to compromise with your security. Timely updating your apps can improve its functions and security as it could come with bug fixes. Apart from this keep your phone’s firmware updated. You can check for this update by navigating to “settings”, Clicking on “System”, then selecting “System Updates”. Sadly not many OEM come up with system updates frequently. It usually takes the OEM about two to three months before releasing the latest security patches. There is always some delay, but whenever there is a system update accept is at the earliest and do the needful.
In most cases, firmware updates will consist of the latest security patches as well as bug fixes for the smooth functioning of your device. You should also abstain from rooting your phone using any unauthorised third-party software. If you do this, you are running the risk of leaving yourself open to easy pickings for hackers.
Turning Off Unknown Sources Option
Even though hackers can compromise Play-Store with malicious apps, it is the only place which provides some security to download Android Apps. There are alternative sources, and you can download third-party apps. However, it is not advisable as you run the risk of attacks from hackers from these sources. As much as possible, use the apps that you will find in the Play Store. If you have enabled the “Unknown Sources” option in your android, you should disable it. Enabling it would mean that you can only download third-party apps, and not Play Store apps. Disabling it would prevent any unauthorised app from getting installed in your device. You need not worry even if you already have third-party apps on your phone. You can use them without any problem even if you disable the “Unknown Sources option”. For you to disable it, go to the “Settings” menu, and select “security”. Under this “security menu” browse for the “Unknown sources” option, disable it.
Reviewing App Permissions
Apps would require your approval to have access to some of the functions in your device. It is essential you know what you are doing when allowing such permissions. Since the release of “6.0 Marshmellow”, android requires specific app permissions to get access to your phone. For example, while installing an app related to editing pictures and adding filters to the pictures while clicking photos, it would require you to grant access to your camera.
Similarly, a messaging app like WhatsApp requires access to your contact list. If you want to send audio and picture files, through it, you would be asked to grant permission to access your camera, gallery and microphone. So basically, this is how app permissions work. Keep in mind that, no apps would be allowed to have access to any of the functions in your phone by default. It will need some permission. You must have noticed that while installing a new app, pop-ups appear asking you for authorisations. You will generally get a ton of requests during the installation process. Kindly please care to check carefully before giving away your approval. Remember to check the different permissions it is seeking for. The lesser the privileges it requires, the better. Keep in mind that hackers could easily take advantage of the opportunity. They can misuse the functions because the moment you press “Allow”, the app would have full access over those functions of your device. It is advisable to take some time going through what kind of app is trying to get access to what sort of service. There are some apps which you will not be able to install without allowing your permission. If you don’t want the app to have access to specific functions of your device you cannot install it on your phone. Having to make this choice can be a tough call sometimes.
To view app permissions in your android phone, you can take the following steps. Navigate to “Settings Menu”. You easily do this by either tapping on “gear icon” found in “Quick Settings”. There is another method for doing this, i.e., you can select “Settings” from the app menu. You can type in these commands viz. “Configure Apps” or “App Permissions” in the search bar. In case you don’t see anything, select “Apps” from “Settings” and tap on the three dots. Tapping on it will enable a “Sub-Menu”, choose “Configure Apps”, followed by “App Permissions”. After doing all this, Android will display a list of all the permissions allowed to different apps. Spend some time getting an idea of what each app is capable of doing. Check for Apps which has access to more permission than its needed. If you notice anything amiss, it would be better that you remove the app. You can also turn off the accessibility of the app. Keep this in mind that app developers and hackers can take advantage of the information they get from you. By keeping the app access to the minimum, you reduce the chances of damage a malicious app can cause you.
Reviewing Everything That’s Already on Your Phone
The apps on your device might seem harmless, but it is good practice to run a system check manually. Though updating is a good way avail the latest from your apps, sometimes things might go awry in your latest software update. You can always do a quick review of your app by checking app permissions to make sure nothing is amiss.
Take All the Precautionary Measures Available
Your phone has scores of information about you. Starting from your email to internet banking and other personal information which you wouldn’t want anyone else getting their hands on. A crook getting physical access to your device can cause lots of trouble for you. To prevent thieves from having what they want, what you can do is keep your phone locked when you are not using it. If you are fortunate enough the crooks won’t try and hack pass through your lock system. Android provides various lock systems, like passcode, pattern, face recognition and fingerprint. You can make use of this available lock features to keep your device secured. Until and unless your device ends up with pro hackers rest assured that the personal information in your device is safe.
Take Measures in Advance to Track and Lock Your Phone
It is always good to have a backup plan. It might sound a little too over the top, but one needs to set certain measures. It is good to prepare yourself for the worst just in case you lose your device, and you don’t want your information and data falling into the wrong hands. One thing you can do is to set your phone in such a way that it automatically erases all the data on its own after a certain number of trials to enter the correct passcode and unlock your phone. If you think that, it is a bit too much, you can always rely on the “find my device” service that Google provides. With this option, you would be able to locate your phone on a map, and remotely have your phone locked or data erased. To enable this function, you can go to “Google Find My Device“. Apart from this, you can also have your missing phone ring so that you can locate it when it gets misplaced.
Never Leave Your Online Services Unlocked
Though auto-login can be a very convenient feature to get access to your online services at ease, it comes with a lot of risks. All an intruder needs to do is open your browser to have access to all your online accounts. It is therefore advisable that you don’t use the auto-login features at all. One more thing you need to keep in mind is to avoid using the same password for different accounts. By using the same password for various services, you run the risk of having all your accounts compromised if anyone manages to guess your one and only password.
Beware of Open WiFi
There is a risk of hackers managing to find out what you are doing via your Wi-Fi connection. Though it takes skill to do this, it is not unheard of. Until and unless it is a trusted source you have to avoid connecting to the Wi-Fi source.
Lock Individual Apps
Aside from the passcode what you can do as a second line of defence for your device is to set up a lock system for different apps. By doing this even if an intruder gets past the passcode the person would not be able to open your apps. If not, then your emails and banking apps could be easily compromised. Though Android does not have an inbuilt feature for this, there are apps available in play store which can help you out.
Some other useful tips:
- Leaving your phone unattended can be the worst mistake you can do. It is a good practice to have your phone with you or in view when you are in public areas.
- Your cellphone would most probably come with a simple passcode. It would be good if you can change your phone’s default passcode to something more complex and challenging.
- Turn off your Bluetooth device when not in use. Also, avoid connecting to unprotected Bluetooth devices.