Android Safety Tips
by Jeff Wyatt, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
According to an article on TheVerge.com, Google recently announced that it has more than two billion active devices using the Android operating system. With a wider variety of manufactures, a lower price point for consumers, and more customizations available within the platform, it is understandable that more users select Android devices over Apple. However, the ability to customize Android devices can leave an open door to hackers if users are not taking steps to protect their digital information.
Below are some suggestions our Fraud Protection Center put together to help you protect your device from unwanted intrusions.
Never Download Apps Outside of Google Play
Android devices allow users to authorize downloads from unknown sources in order to access these external programs, but using this option can open devices to malicious content. In fact, even some apps within the Google Play store may ask you to authorize unknown downloads as part of their installation procedure.
To disable downloads from unknown sources: Open your main phone settings. Then select the “Lock screen and security” option. Make sure the slider bar next to “Unknown sources” is turned off.
Never Jailbreak Your Phone
Jailbreaking (also known as rooting) is basically opening up the phone’s underlying operating system to apps. Jailbreaking provides many benefits for highly technical users with a side effect of relaxing built-in security mechanisms of the phone. A simple google search will list many apps that make jailbreaking the phone easy. A jailbroken phone can allow an attacker to fully take over a user’s phone, exposing all data, features, and functions of the phone. The hacker could read and send text messages, view data within all apps, delete apps, encrypt files, turn the phone into a listening device, log key strokes, turn on the phone remotely, and many other exploits.
Backup Your Phone Regularly
In case your phone is lost, stolen, damaged, or compromised, having good backups are key to recovery. Many Android apps are available to properly backup the device to your computer or the cloud. While we cannot recommend a specific app, a Google search can reveal a wealth of information on the topic with reviews on the available apps.
Use Only Secure Wi-Fi
An unsecure Wi-Fi network provides a hacker with the means to easily watch a l l your network activity and attempt to compromise your phone. So, it is a wise idea to never connect to a Wi-Fi network that does not use a password. Also, Wi-Fi networks using WEP or WPA1 security protocols are known to be easily hacked, providing little to no actual security. So, be sure to only connect to a network that uses a WPA2 protocol.
Lock Your Screen
Locking your screen prevents access to the device and your data if it is lost or stolen. You can lock the screen with a numeric PIN, a password, a pattern you draw with your finger, or your fingerprint. To enable this feature, go to the “Settings” menu and select “Security” or “Security & Location.”
Use Parental Controls
Parents know that little hands can accidently do big things, especially when it comes to using cell phones. For example, the phone could be accidentally wiped, unwanted apps could be purchased and downloaded, or phone calls or texts could be placed outside of toll-free areas. Different versions of Android phones have differing setup methods for parental control. Use an internet browser to search for your specific phone model, or visit your service provider’s closest store, for help.
Remote Tracking and Wiping
If your phone is ever lost or stolen, this feature will allow you to locate the device when it is turned on and connected to a network. You can also wipe the phone back to factory settings and remove all your information from the device to protect the privacy of your data. To enable go to the “Settings” menu and select “Security” or “Security & Location.” Then select the “Find My Device” option. Turn on the features to “Remotely locate this device” and “Allow remote lock and erase.”
Encrypt Your Phone
If an attacker is able to acquire your phone, he/she could remove the stored media and gain access to your data. When the device is encrypted, the attacker is unable to read your information directly from the storage without your security credential. To encrypt your phone, please visit your cell phone providers support center for help in enabling encryption. You do not want to have an issue in the middle of encrypting the drive or you could lose your data in the process. Allow an expert to help with this process.
Use an Anti-Virus App and Keep it Up-to-date
It is estimated that more than a million new malware threats are created each day, and Android devices are highly susceptible to viruses without appropriate virus protection. Although we cannot recommend a specific anti-virus app, we do encourage all Android users to use reputable sites to research the best app that can protect their phone and the data stored within and processed by the phone. Android phones are small computers using a Linux operating system, which needs extra virus protection due to their customizable nature. With new virus definitions being released throughout the day, it is a good idea to keep the anti-virus app up-to-date at all times to minimize the chance of becoming infected.
Enable the Verify Apps Setting
The Verify App setting allows Google to prompt the user before allowing a download from an unknown source, thereby warning you of the dangers. Additionally, Google will automatically block the installation of an app with a high level of risk. This option can be found under “Settings” menu in older phones. Newer phone users will need to look for the “Security” tab located within the settings menu.
Force All Apps to Auto-Update
Apps need to be updated frequently as developers discover new vulnerabilities and performance issues. Allowing apps to auto-update will allow your phone to remain current at all times. You may elect to update any time or only over Wi-Fi since data plans may be used to download files, which may result in data and usage charges, depending on your service provider and plan. This option can be found under the “Settings” menu in the Play Store.
Keep the Phone Operating System Up-to-date
Similarly, It is a good idea to allow the phone’s operating system to update automatically. Operating system updates are often applied when known Android vulnerabilities are discovered. When your operating system is out-of-date, your phone may be vulnerable to easy attack. To enable these updates, go to the “Settings” menu, select “About Phone,” and then “System Update.” Then select the “Settings” option and select the “Auto-download over Wi-Fi option.”