Google’s Android operating system is more popular than ever.
Unfortunately, Android’s open source architecture and substantial market share have made it a continuing target of malware attacks. According to a recent report by Trend Micro, 79% of all malware threats affect Android. In fact, they report that there have been over a million of these threats in the first nine months of 2013 alone.
While some of the statistics may be alarming, there is no reason for Android users to give up their devices. By following some prudent steps, you can substantially reduce the risk of becoming a victim of an attack. These will also help to protect you if your phone is lost or stolen.
- Software Upgrades – The latest version of Android is much less vulnerable than previous ones. If possible, it makes sense to upgrade your phone to the latest version — using a dated second-tier producer’s phone will put you at greater risk than using the latest Google Nexus device. Regardless, try to use a device that is compatible with the latest Android operating system. Many Android apps have security features as well, so they should also be updated.
- Antivirus Software – As with your computer, you should have antivirus protection on your phone. In fact, if you are happy with the antivirus software on your PC, there’s a good chance the same provider has a mobile version as well.
- Be Selective – Remember, any activity you perform on your smart phone is broadcasted over the airwaves and is therefore at greater risk of intrusion. Try to limit the use of your phone for sensitive activities such as banking or credit card purchases.
- Purchase Apps at Google Play – Google strictly monitors the apps it sells through Google Play and even scans them immediately before you download them. Just be sure that you are buying from the official Google Play site. Some fake Google Play sites have cropped up to steal your data.
- Text Messages – Don’t answer text messages unless you know who the message is from. A large percentage of malware threats are transmitted through SMS text messages.
- Disable Auto-Connect – Some devices have a Wi-Fi auto connect feature. It’s advisable to disable this feature in Android settings. This will prevent your phone from inadvertently connecting to an illegitimate source.
- Lock Your Phone – Be sure to lock and password-protect the home screen on your phone with a password that isn’t obvious. Note that there are now apps available to display your owner info on your home screen. This will enable good Samaritans to return a lost phone to you without needing to unlock it, but you shouldn’t leave any clues to your password in this information.
- Back Up – Back up the data on your phone in case it is lost, stolen or impacted by malware. There are apps to help you with this.
- Remote Wipe – There are apps that enable you to delete the contents of the phone remotely in the event that it is lost or stolen. Just be sure you have a good back up before you enable it.
- Device Tracking – You can track your phone if it is lost or stolen. To do this, enable the GPS on your phone and download a device tracking app. Some phones may have functionality to make the setup process easier. It’s not advisable to confront a phone thief though!
- Encryption – You can further protect your data by enabling encryption in the Android security settings. There are also many apps that provide encryption protection.
What about Apple?
You may be asking, “Why go to all this trouble when I can purchase a more secure iPhone instead?”
Until now, the consensus has indeed been that Apple’s closed iOS operating system is less susceptible to malware attack than Android phones. While this still may be true, recent advancements in Android security are narrowing the gap. In fact, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt recently proclaimed that the latest version of Android is MORE secure than Apple’s iOS.
We’ll let the consumer be the judge, but the bottom line is that you need to be careful with either device. Any additional security that an Apple device may provide probably isn’t justification for making a switch.
The “smart call” is to stick with your Android and take simple precautions to protect yourself.