10 Tips on Securing Your Android Phone

article by Nicky Hoseck
July 04, 2019

If you’re anything like me, if you leave home without your phone, you feel anxious, bereft, and more than a little bit naked! Our phones mean so much to us, there’s a new branch of psychology known as mobilology, dedicated to understanding our relationships with them. So you may be thinking, how to secure my Android phone?

The problem is, because we take our phones everywhere we go, we make them vulnerable and expose them to all sorts of dangers.

Just as we want to keep our children and pets safe, so we want the best for our phones. While phones don’t need regular walks or water, they do have their own demands and meeting them, particularly on a security level, is paramount to their happiness and operational longevity.

Don’t be cruel to your Android – read this guide on how to secure Android phone from hackers, then read it a bedtime story and tuck it up in bed.

Why Does My Android Need Securing?

Unfortunately, there’s nothing sacred about smartphones and plenty of cybercriminals are only too happy to use their technological expertise to make money out of your security flaws.

Every time you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you risk all the information on your phone, from passwords to financial data, to your social security number. Of course, you also run the risk of leaving it behind on the coffee shop table or having it stolen.

Oh, and then there’s the malware and ransomware and other bugs that can infect and disrupt your device. It really is a minefield out there which is why meeting your Android phone’s security needs is so important.

10 Ways to Safeguard your Android Phone

1. Lock it Up

You may not be able to lock the screen on your Android phone with a fingerprint but there are some pretty impressive safety features you can activate to keep your favorite phone friend safe. By heading over to your security settings, you can choose from four different types of screen lock depending on the level of security you feel you need. While entering a specific pattern to unlock your screen offers medium-level security, a PIN number or password give you even better protection.

For your convenience, you can also tweak the smart lock function so that it automatically turns off when it senses that its in motion and therefore safely with its owner. You can also use Google maps to identify safe places where the screen lock isn’t required, like in your home or your workplace.

It is also possible to use Bluetooth to let your phone know when it’s in safe company so, for example, if you don’t want your phone to lock the screen when you’re working on your laptop, you can add your laptop as a trusted device and leave your phone unlocked whenever it’s nearby.

Take this first step as you embark on a mission for Android phone security.

2. Identify Yourself

Let’s face it, the worst thing we can do to our phone is expose it to the evil threats of the internet but, if we keep it safe from online perils, there’s no point in having it at all. Now we’ve got your phone screen secured, its time to step things up a notch and secure it’s online experience as best we can.

The first step in keeping your phone safe online is by using two-factor authentication whenever possible. What this means is that your username and password alone won’t be sufficient for a hacker to access to accounts like Google. Our Google life is particularly vulnerable because it knows so much about us, from our credit card details to our favorite videos, which is why all Android users should embrace its two-step verification process.

Basically, two-factor authentication means the user enters two pieces of information about themselves. According to cybersecurity experts, these are a combination of two of the following:

  1. Something you know (such as a password)
  2. Something you have (like a cellphone)
  3. Something you are (like your fingerprint)

You really don’t have to be an expert in online security to understand how much safer this process makes your online accounts and, if you feel the need for an even higher level of security, you can explore the additional security features available with Google’s Advanced Protection Program.

3. Be App-ropriate

We’ve all heard of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, but inappropriate apps can be just as disruptive. These days, there are apps for everything and, if you’ve got enough memory space on your smartphone, you can install software that will remind you to drink enough water each day and track your calorie intake.

While downloading apps from Google Play is one of the best ways to ensure you’re not getting malicious software sneaking onto your Android device, even this method isn’t foolproof. Although Google tries its best to ensure the safety of all the apps within its store, at the end of last year, 29 malicious apps were identified and removed from the site, but only after they’d been downloaded by around 30,000 users!

Nevertheless, installing apps from an unknown source is even more dangerous – at least Google Play has some level of security and screening happening in the background, whereas third-party app sites often leave you exposed to all kinds of malware and viruses. There are one or two reliable app stores but, as a rule of thumb, sticking with Google Play is going to be safer and more comfortable for your Android.

Another serious threat to your device’s security is the sideloading of apps via an APK file. Because the source code is the part that’s infected with malware, you won’t be able to detect it prior to installation. Subsequently, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before sideloading, namely:

  1. Is the source legitimate?
  2. Is the file available on the developer’s official website?
  3. Is the app produced by a reputable developer?
  4. What experiences have other users had with this app?

Just as you wouldn’t encourage your toddler to hang out with a friend with flu for fear of infection, don’t make your Android hangout on dangerous third-party app sites or expose it to nasty viruses by sideloading unreliable apps.

4. Disconnect

This may sound like the last thing you want to do but in some instances, it really is ok to take a break. Just think about it for a moment. If you’re sitting in your backyard, soaking up the summer sun, you’re not going to leave your front door open. Similarly, if you’re beavering away on the internet, using a Wi-Fi connection, is there any real reason to have your  Bluetooth connected as well?

Any connection that allows you to communicate with the outside world, also allows that outside world to sneak in and disrupt your otherwise secure Android phone. Threats like the BlueBorne Bluetooth airborne attack vector can be limited by turning your Bluetooth off when you’re not using it.

Similarly, strolling around with your Wi-Fi connection on means you could accidentally connect to all kinds of unsecured public Wi-Fi connections, leaving your device wide open for hackers and cybercriminals of all shapes and sizes.

Being present may mean you’re connected to all things but that’s more on a spiritual rather than digital level and when it comes to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, being present means switching it off if you’re not using it!

5. Get a VPN

Virtual Private Networks aren’t new on the cybersecurity scene but they do remain strangely under-utilized. Currently, only around 17% of Americans are making use of this powerful tool despite the fact that millions perform online shopping transactions and connect via public Wi-Fi on an almost daily basis.

It seems the general public still lacks some awareness of the level of cybercrime in the US today and how much protection a VPN can offer. By encrypting all the traffic that travels to and from your device, the best VPNs can prevent that information from being intercepted and falling into the wrong hands. That means that, should you enter your credit card details onto a secure site, a VPN encrypts them so they can’t be stolen.

In addition to an encrypted tunnel, a VPN can also create a fake IP address for you which means you can access any content you like without leaving behind any evidence of where you’ve been. This means you can’t be tracked and you won’t have targeted adverts haunting you at every turn.

The best VPNs services, like ExpressVPN or Surfshark VPN, offer a plethora of other benefits in addition to the security-related perks. Increased speeds, uninterrupted streaming, and the freedom to access geographically restricted content from anywhere in the world are just a few of them.

Honestly, when it comes to how to secure your Android phone against hackers, a VPN is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. When combined with one of the best antivirus apps available – like ExpressVPN working in conjunction Norton – a VPN is an especially formidable piece of your cybersecurity armor and one of the easiest ways to protect your Android phone.

6. Manage your Passwords

Given the multitude of different online accounts, although most of us manage during the course of the day, keeping our passwords up-to-date, unique, and secure can be challenging.

You’ve got a login for your VPN, another one for your banking app, another for Google, and the list goes on seemingly without end. Not only that, using the same password on multiple accounts exposes you to hackers and makes your device vulnerable to malware attacks. Similarly, the use of simplistic passwords, like “password” for example, doesn’t offer any protection at all.

These complications lead many people to install a password manager to keep track of their secure login information and remind them to update old passwords and change weak ones. Apps like LastPass and Dashlane have basic apps available for free which will keep your passwords safe and save you time by automatically completing online forms and logins.

With its zero-knowledge protection, Dashlane is one of the most secure password managers around and will notify you about compromised or potentially malicious websites while generating strong passwords that it will remember and keep safely locked away.

7. Stay bug-free

A VPN can do many things but it can’t do the same things as an antivirus app which is why you need both in your cybersecurity toolbox. The best antivirus software will provide you with an effective firewall that is capable of detecting and defusing potential threats. Many also include a password manager, the benefits of which we touched upon earlier.

There are plenty of antivirus tools available for Android, including some free versions that, while limited, nevertheless offer resilient basic protection. Lightweight apps are more popular as it impacts less on the device’s performance but is still capable of preventing malware from sneaking through during an app download.

An antivirus can also protect you against spam emails and phishing attacks, keep all your software up-to-date with the latest security patches, and warn you if unsecured Wi-Fi connections are detected. One of the best antivirus apps for Android is McAfee which, if you opt for the premium package, will give you enhanced identity theft protection and parental controls to boot.

8. Abide by a Code of Conduct

Even with all the above security measures in place, there’s still room for more, and encryption is the current buzzword. With NordVPN releasing a new file encryption app in the next few months, the use of codes to create safer digital storage facilities is the talk of the town. After all, if US Customs and Border Protection can be breached, so can you.

To get a secure Android phone, however, you don’t necessarily need a separate file encryption app. Simply pop over to your security settings and encrypt your entire device and your SD card as well if you’re using one. While this will give peace of mind to even the most paranoid of internet users, it can potentially slow down your device and can’t be easily reversed, so you need to be sure before you take the plunge.

If you’d rather just encrypt sensitive data like your bank statements and personal photographs, then there are apps compatible with Android that will do this for you. Some will even encrypt files that you’re keeping in cloud storage, giving you an even more secure Android phone.

9. Verify your Vendor

Anyone who’s made a purchase from a seller on Craigslist or bought clothing online knows just how wrong things can go. Similarly, not everyone selling Android phones can be relied upon to know how to secure an Android phone from hackers. In fact, some don’t seem to care and, as a result, are somewhat tardy when it comes to releasing the latest security patches.

According to a leading online authority on all things Android, LG is the best manufacturer to buy as they released the latest update in just 78 days. Lagging far behind them is Samsung which took nearly twice as long.

Buying from a reputable dealer and manufacturer ensures your device will get the security benefits of timeous updates and give you someone to turn to should you experience any difficulties with your device.

10. Permission Granted

We all tend to be yes-men and women when in cyberspace purely because we’re constantly asked so many inane questions, like “do you accept my cookies?” While it’s true that these measures are in place to protect our privacy, they do get a little monotonous and, subsequently, many of us tend to blithely click on “yes” and “accept” when we probably shouldn’t.

For example, you’re downloading a photo-editing app and you unthinkingly agree to give it access to your entire address book. It’s these kinds of permissions that give hackers an open invitation to stroll in and steal your data. Of course, certain apps need certain permissions in order to fulfill their function but keeping an eye on who you’re letting see what is a key aspect of how to secure your Android phone.

If you’re now having a quiet panic attack, don’t. Simply open your application manager in your settings menu and click on each individual app to check what permissions it has. Now you can alter them according to what they really need and what you really want them to see.

Do you see? When it comes to how to secure your Android phone against hackers, it’s really not that difficult, especially not with such a variety of effective cybersecurity tools at your fingertips.

Conclusion

Simply because you’re on your phone nearly 98% of the time doesn’t mean it’s necessarily secure. Ok, it’s unlikely to be snatched out of your hand when you’re relaxing at home, but not all crimes are happening in this dimension and the more time you spend online, the more vulnerable your precious Android becomes.

Basic cybersecurity tools like a VPN and antivirus are great ways to create a secure operating environment for your Android phone. Of course, common sense goes a long way as well, so if you’re tempted to click on a dodgy-looking email because it says you could win $100,000 just put the phone down and back away. If you know you simply wouldn’t be able to resist that temptation, then install an antivirus to do it for you.

Given that nearly half of Americans view their smartphones as something they couldn’t live without, making sure its as safe as possible is vital to our continued existence! Short of wrapping your phone up in bubble wrap and cotton wool, which would render it pretty useless, taking these 10 tips on securing your Android phone will bring you peace and joy. Well, maybe not, but it will certainly safeguard you against cyber threats like identity theft, and keep your device healthy and free of malicious infections.