As popular as Android devices are, the brand is still battling against its reputation for being less secure than Apple’s iPhone. G DATA Analysts noted 3.2 million malware samples on Android devices in the third quarter of 2018, a 40% increase on the same period a year before.
One of the main security challenges Android faces to improve this situation is managing the number of different operating systems running under the Android umbrella, across a vast range of makes and models.
In many cases, security patches are released to deal with a specific vulnerability. While the patch will shut a specific backdoor, hackers know that users are often slow to apply updates, meaning that a vulnerability will still be there to exploit on millions of unpatched, or older devices. But it’s not just users who are slow to react. Another issue with implementing patches is how long it can take different phone manufacturers to disseminate the update among their users.
Google provides monthly security patches, but they are not always pushed out to users in a timely fashion. While smaller brands tend to push updates out faster than their major competitors, it is clear that there has been a marked improvement, but with most non-Google brands taking more than 50 days from release to push out to their devices, this vulnerability is still a major concern.
Despite this, the idea that Android devices are not secure is not true. As with laptops, the responsibility is on the user’s hands. Using add-ons and third-party for the Android security apps, there are lots of things that Android users can do to improve their security. But with a lot of chooses, it can be hard to decide which add-ons are necessary.
Google does provide a level of security on all of their devices, including malware scanners, but for extra peace of mind, it is worth treating your device as you would a Windows PC – with third-party software for maintaining your safety with regular malware scans and real-time email monitoring.
Yes, the antivirus will take up space and can sometimes run down the battery faster, but it will give you peace of mind and help to protect your device from malicious software, especially if you are a user who installs apps from outside the Google Play store or uses your device as a portable hard drive.
Virtual private network
There is more than one type of security to consider. Antivirus and device protection is vital, but the security of the data you send and receive should not be underestimated. Whether you are traveling or just in a coffee shop, the lure of free WiFi can be great, but connecting to an unsecured connection could put your data at great risk of being exposed.
Using a virtual private network ( VPN ) will boost your security in several ways.
First, it will tunnel all your activity through their international servers, masking your IP address and making it appear you are logging on from another country, and therefore impossible to link your browsing history with your real IP address and location.
Second, VPN services provide end-to-end encryption, meaning that even if hackers were able to collect your data, all they would be able to see is a collection of encrypted characters and not your account details.
Finally, a VPN is straightforward to set up and use. Most services have apps that allow you to use the VPN across multiple devices, including Android, and activating them is as simple as clicking a button.
If security advice were followed to the letter, everyone would have unique, complex passwords for every account, and these would be updated regularly. In reality, this is almost impossible because people need passwords to be memorable. The result is that most people will choose simple passwords and reuse them across accounts.
While convenience often tops security concerns, if your details were to be captured, the attacker would not just have your password for one account, but any and all that share that password.
There is a simple solution for this, and it’s password management tools. Most tools now not only help by keeping all the passwords in one place but can also generate new passwords, leaving the user to remember one single password to access all of their accounts.
Google does include its own tool on Android devices, but there are many other third-party options, including LastPass or 1Password, that may offer features that are more suitable for your needs.
Account security has become increasingly vital in the era of the smartphone. The device is no longer just for calls, it is the user’s entertainment, their contactless payment card, and their workplace. So, it makes sense for access to these vital accounts is protected by more than just a password. Many apps, including Google’s own services, offer two-factor authentication (2FA) which should be activated wherever possible.
2FA simply requires two forms of verification to gain access. The first can be a password, but the second could be biometric, such as a fingerprint, or a unique code that is sent via SMS or email. This means that hackers cannot access an account with just the password, and the arrival of an unsolicited code could alert the user to a potential breach.
As important as security applications are, applying common sense is always the most effective way to protect against a breach. Broadly, this means limiting the number of avenues hackers have to access your phone. So, you make sure that WiFi and Bluetooth connections are switched off when they are not in use, and uninstall apps that you no longer use or which are no longer supported by their developer.
With such a range of smartphone security tools available, it can difficult to decide which are essential and which are adding unnecessary bloat to your devices. To keep it as simple as possible. The key areas for security are to protect against malware, secure your browsing activity, and to secure access to accounts. All three can be achieved using a blend of built-in and third-party solutions, but the specific combination comes down to user preference.
By looking after your security on a number of levels rather than relying on default settings, you can ensure that your devices and personal information remain secure.