Android Security: Six Tips to Protect Your Google Phone
Addressing the recent high-profile Android malware scare, CIO.com's mobile maestro Al Sacco shares six tips and tricks--along with a free download--to help secure your Google smartphone and ensure your personal data remains protected.
Tue, March 08, 2011
Google's (GOOG) Android Market mobile software shop was hit last week with its first major malware attack; a popular application called "DroidDream" proved to be infected with malicious code that could steal users' personal information, and Google was forced to use a built-in Android "kill-switch" to do away with the problematic app--but not until after it had already infiltrated thousands of Android smartphones.
The Google Android platform has never been more popular; in fact, Android now holds a commanding 31 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share, making it the most popular smartphone OS in the country, according to ComScore.
Slideshow: 8 Essential Android Security Apps
Android has also never before represented such a significant target for hackers and other baddies looking to profit off of the platform's popularity. In other words, now is the time to get smart about Google Android security. The following six tips and tricks will help do just that.
1) Protect Your Android with a Password--Now!
The single most effective security measure you can take to protect your Android device is to lock it with a password. It sounds simple, but a strong password--or even a weak one--will protect you and your smartphone from the vast majority of threats; if a malicious party can't get past your password screen, your data and everything else on-device is generally secure.
Depending on the model of your Android smartphone, you'll have a variety of password options, but they're all accessed in mainly the same way. Open up your Android Settings menu and scroll down to the section called Location & Security Settings or something similar. First, enable Screen Unlock Security and you'll then be presented with a number of password options, depending on your device.
For example, my Motorola Atrix 4G provides password options for a Pattern Lock, for which you can set a specific "swipe pattern" to unlock your device; a PIN Lock that uses numbers to secure your handheld; a Password Lock, for which you can employ both letters and numbers; and finally, a biometric-based Fingerprints Lock that employs the Atrix's fingerprint reader for authentication.
Though the Fingerprint Lock is the most secure option...I'm a bit wary of storing my biometric information on Google's servers, so I opt for the Password Lock. In order of "secureness," the Fingerprint Lock is most secure, followed by the Password Lock, PIN Lock and finally, the Pattern Lock. But using any one of these Android password security options is better than not using one at all.
(Note: If you choose to employ the Pattern Lock option, it's a good idea to frequently wipe your touch screen clean, since repeated entry of your pattern lock can leave a "trail" that can be spotted by hackers and used to gain access to your device.)
After you set your Android password, you should set your Screen Timeout options to a relatively low option, so your device display shuts off and locks itself shortly after you last touch it. To do so, open up the Android Settings menu, scroll down and select Display. On the following screen, locate the Screen Timeout option and pick a value--I suggest one minute or less for maximum security.