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'Access Denied' - 7 ways to protect your Android device

7th August 2013

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Android devices seem to be continually under attack, with new reports of malware almost every day. However, the biggest threats against your Android phone or tablet aren’t malware, but rather unauthorised users who may access your information.

While mobile security includes detecting and blocking malicious apps, it also includes protecting physical access and encryption. To secure your Android device and helpsafeguard your data and privacy,there are a few simple tips to follow:

1. Lock Your Device

A pattern-code or a PIN can help keep unauthorised users from browsing through your phone. Pattern locking asks users to draw a specific pattern while the PIN-based symptom unlocks the screen as soon as the correct numeric code is entered.

It’s good practice, though, to wipe the screen with a cloth after unlocking the device.If you look at the device from an angle, you will likely see a trail of smudges showing what the pattern looks like or what digits are used in the PIN. If you wipe the screen, randomly run your finger across the screen in crazy patterns, or use a pattern that doubles back on its self frequently, then any smudges left behind won’t be of any use to the snoop.

2. Secure Google Play Purchases

Set a separate PIN for purchases in Google Play so that unauthorised users won’t be able to buy apps from the marketplace. Within the Google Play app, go to the settings menu, and then tap “Set or change PIN.” Once you’ve created the pin, select “Use PIN for purchases,” to make sure the user is prompted for the PIN before completing a transaction from the store.

3. Install Security Software

While Android malware makes up a tiny portion of all threats, it still pays to install security software on the device. Most Android security tools do more than just scan for malicious apps. The tools can detect potential phishing Websites, provide information about the kind of permissions other apps are requesting, and have a variety of built-in anti-loss tools. Many security products on the market let you remotely lock your phone, track its location via GPS, and even remotely wipe all the data from the device.

4. Rely On Official App-Stores

Hand-in-hand with the security software recommendation is a warning: don’t install apps from unfamiliar third-party sites and don’t try installing the apps manually in a process called side loading.

Users should make sure apps from third-party sites can’t be loaded onto the device by unchecking “Unknown Sources” within the Settings page.

This applies to links, too. After clicking on a link in an unsolicited email or SMS, many users are prompted to download a separate app. That new app is most likely a scam. Always read reviews of apps before installing, and check the permissions the app is requesting. If any of the permissions seem a little odd, such as a car-racing game wanting to send SMS messages, then it’s best to not install the app.

5. Don’t Root the Device

There are many reasons to root an Android device, such as to have some control over what Android operating system to run or to upgrade to a new version the carriers aren’t providing. However, rooting relies on the developers identifying a vulnerability to gain root privileges. You don’t know if the software you are looking to install is legitimate or malicious, and if you’ve rooted your device, you may be escalating that new application to gain root access.

6. Encrypt Your Data

Android devices have full encryption to protect all the data, including Google Accounts, application data, and download information. The encryption means that the user can’t access any data without the right password or PIN. To enable this option just go to Settings->>Security->>Check Enable Encryption.

Encryption also applies to network traffic. If users regularly use a public unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot, then the eavesdropper could easily be harvesting all the profile information and interaction with others.

7. Backup Your Data

Finally, always backup your phone data, contacts and settings in regular intervals against Google’s servers or by connecting directly to a computer. If something ever happens to your data, you will be able to reclaim the information from the cloud service.

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