Of all the nefarious ways in which we can fall victim to online crime, hacks are perhaps the most insidious. Most of us can see through an email scam telling us our long-lost relative in Africa has died leaving us millions in their will, but a clever hack can reach inside our phone and steal our data without us even knowing. And we all know this because companies selling anti-hacking software are always ready to highlight the most alarming statistics about the frequency of phone hacks with 10,000s of new malware programs created daily.
Whilst bad experiences with hacks can happen, the good news is that your trusty Android device already comes with a stack of very robust security features devised by Google’s own team to prevent you becoming the latest victim stat! Some of these features are already configured to best protect you. Those that aren’t require just a little tweak here and there – time well spent to put you in good shape to fend off the hackers.
Here is a rundown of some anti-hack actions you can take today to protect yourself.
1. Choosing Apps – Security, Integrity and Permissions
We all use apps and there is no getting around that. Most services we use online now have an app and there are millions available through the Google Play store. The vast majority that appear in there have no security issues associated with them, but occasionally one or two bad apples will sneak in.
To start with, most of us don’t spend much time reading about an app or looking at its providence before we download it. It’s worth revising this approach to ensure you don’t download a wrong un’! Just a few minutes looking at how many downloads an app has had, checking out the user reviews and which other apps the developer is responsible for gives you the chance to make your own mind up about whether you can trust it or not.
In particular, high risk products where you plan to spend money, like crypto exchanges, gaming or casino apps require more research. They should be properly licensed and have a reputable online brand behind them. In this case we recommend checking out the company website before downloading the app to check that it is trusted. In those industries where there is more money to be made, there is generally more fraudulent activity, so be careful with those apps.
Of course, you will already have a large number of apps installed on your phone and it is worth carrying out a regular inventory. This means, checking through all the apps you have on your device to see what parts of your Google account they are accessing. Many apps do this to keep running effectively, but some you will no longer be using. You can simply switch off the access on this page of your Google Account.
You should also regularly – maybe monthly – check through the Apps Permissions section of your phone to see what other information your apps are accessing. They may be connected to Facebook or Instagram, your photos or maps. You can switch these off nice and easily through your Apps Permissions to be sure you are not unnecessarily linking between apps and personal information that you don’t want to share.
Those are just a few key measures that you can take to tighten up security around Apps on your phone. But there are more general security actions that you can carry out as well to reduce the chances of being hacked.
2. The Easy Stuff – Passwords and Biometrics
Ok, before we go any further with general phone security, let’s make sure of one thing – your phone MUST be secured with a password, PIN, or some sort of Biometrics like a fingerprint. If you are not using one of these options then you are giving anyone who finds your phone and wants to look into it, access to all your emails and messages. And no one wants that! Further, with a bit of sniffing around they can probably access all your apps, facebook, and photos.
So be smart, and preferably combine a PIN with a Biometric protection so that only you can access your phone and the risks are reduced if it is stolen or lost.
Once you are into your phone, remember that many of your apps and online accounts have passwords too. There are also ways to make these more secure. For example, you can use Google’s own password management system, already installed on your phone, or bespoke ones which you can find online too. These will help you to create very safe passwords, store them and pre-fill your log in pages in the securest way.
3. Extra Security For Services Accessible Through Your Mobile
Not everyone knows this but it is also possible to create an additional security level on your My Google account. The two-step process in this case involves your standard code plus a time-sensitive one that must be generated each time you log in. You can even generate this from your phone itself.
Two-step security is becoming increasingly popular – it’s not just My Google and banks that offer it. You’ll also find it on many social media Apps as well as password managers, cloud storage, and most apps dealing with high risk personal and financial data. You can set up two-step log ins for Google here, then use something like Authenticator – Google’s own password generator – to set up your time-sensitive log ins each time you wish to access an account.
4. Doomsday Scenario – Security To Apply Remotely
Ok, so what if one day your phone is actually stolen? Well, believe it or not there are actually things you can do to remotely limit the damage that can be done if you lose your phone or someone steals it from you. The boffins at Google have actually created a system that can track down your handset and wipe all the all the information from it … remotely.
This futuristic anti-hacking feature is easily switched-on through the Secruity > Find My Device section of your menu.
In the event of a worse-case scenario you will of course need to be able to access the Find My Device pages on the website, or through an App on a separate computer, to instigate a search, shut down, or data-wipe should you lose the phone. But this is one of the ultimate tools to protect yourself from the scourge of device-theft!
Your mobile device is a veritable treasure trove of extremely valuable information about you and for most of us, potentially the gateway to our personal and even business finances. Therefore, it goes without saying that paying attention to Android security is crucial to keeping yourself protected from any kind of hacks. By using a combination of common sense around which apps you use and how you configure security, plus the very latest features and apps to boost security you can give yourself an increased chance of avoiding hacks. Just remember to keep up to date with the latest security updates by reading the articles at Android Headlines each month.