Mobile Security: Protecting Your Android Devices

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Did you know that your mobile phone could make you vulnerable to malware attacks or identity theft? Because Apple and Android approach security differently, I am going to touch on each device type separately to discuss risks and how to protect yourself. Here, we will focus on Android phones and tablets.

According to F-Secure, in 2013 Android devices accounted for 97% of all mobile malware. With nearly 85% of smartphones worldwide running Android, it is understandable why malware creators would focus on it.

Android will allow you to load just about any app from any source, depending on your security settings. And even if you are downloading apps directly from the official Google Play app store, Google only performs a basic review of the app and releases it within a few hours, so these apps aren’t always safe.

So how can you protect yourself? Here are some tips:

  • Only download apps from Google Play. You can prevent your phone from downloading from unofficial sites by selecting Security from your phone’s Settings menu and making sure the phone is not allowed to download apps from unknown sources. One study found that less than 0.1% of apps in Google Play carried malware.
  • Be aware that not all apps are what they claim to be, and some may exist solely to deliver malware. When the popular game Flappy Bird was pulled by the developer from app stores in February 2014, hundreds of copycat versions popped up. McAfee found that nearly 80% of the copycat versions contained malware.
  • Be wary of apps requesting you change or remove security settings. Many apps that cause harm are only able to do so because they trick you into lowering your security settings.
  • Encrypt your devices. This will store data on the phone in a format that cannot be read by others and prevent others from accessing your data by requiring a password to access the phone. Find this option in the Security settings.
  • Download antivirus software. There are many options to choose from for Android, including big names like McAfee/Intel, Norton/Symantec, Avast!, TrendMicro and Kaspersky. If you need help picking an anti-virus program, AV Test provides reviews and analyses of anti-virus products.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus protection as well. This is a good idea anyway. But if you if you sync your device with your computer, that is another way malware can get on your mobile device. Some attacks on mobile devices actually start by infecting your computer and then infecting your mobile device once the two are connected.

Stay tuned for more information on how to protect your Apple devices.

Tim Grove, vice president of systems development, has been with EECU Credit Union’s information technology team since 1999, and is responsible for the programming and development of EECU’s website as well as all online and mobile services. Tim holds an undergrad degree in marketing from Oklahoma Christian University as well as an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington, and has served marketing and IT teams at companies including Canon, EDS and Halliburton.

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