How to Keep Your Android Phone Safe
Back in the day, iPhones were thought to be safe. And yet, a recent iOS version was hacked in only 24 hours! Well, at least Linux is known to be a safer OS, so Android, the popular mobile operating system which utilizes a Linux-based kernel, should be safe as well, right?
The answer is... no. Millions of people have downloaded malware from Google's Play Store on their devices last year. Why? Because some of these bad apps managed to remain undetected for many months. Often, their creators disguise the apps as "guides" for popular applications or games, as system cleaners, memory boosters, and so on. However, these apps include malware components such as FalseGuide, which can build a botnet out of the infected devices, while bombarding their users with ads that earn the malware makers a lot of money.
Nervertheless, FalseGuide wasn't that hard to spot. Firstly, it requested admin permission as soon as you installed it. It did that to ensure that the users can't remove it afterwards, of course, but smartphone owners should be aware of the fact that a game guide should never request (nor be given) admin permissions.
And yet, none of the FalseGuide apps didn't look suspicious before being downloaded, because they didn't include actual malware into their code. Not yet, because the moment you installed and ran an infected application for the very first time, it downloaded additional modules to the infected phone, which made it display unwanted pop-up ads, run DDoS attacks on the specified web properties, and so on.
So, can you keep your Android phone safe? It is definitely possible to do it, if you follow these simple guidelines:
- Always download apps from Google's Play Store. Yes, it may be tempting to download an app from a different source, and even a pirated .apk, but if you do this, you risk losing all the data on your phone, and maybe even bricking the device for good! It is true that a few of the Play Store apps may be infected as well, but if you aren't the type of person who installs every new app the minute it hits the store, you should be safe. Google's team is constantly checking the new apps, and will promptly remove the ones that may pose a security threat.
- Be sure to check the requested app permissions before installing it. If you want to download a "match 3" game, and it wants to read your contact list or have the ability of sending an SMS, there is certainly something fishy about it. In this case, resist the temptation to download the app, even if it promises to take your match 3 gaming experience to new heights ;). By the way, you can, and you should learn what each of these app permissions mean here.
- Utilize a good antivirus. There are several free apps that will do a good job. Some providers have recently started to add a lot of bloatware to their products, though, so I can't recommend any antivirus for now. Still, a simple "antivirus" search in Google's Play Store will reveal several results, and their reviews will hopefully convince you to install a good app.
- Stay away from public hotspots. Hackers can use the Wi-Fi connection of your favorite restaurant to get access to your phone and install malware onto it, so disable Wi-Fi whenever you leave your secure home network. By doing this, you will also increase battery life. And if you really need Internet access on the go, use your phone's mobile data; it will cost you a bit more, but your device will stay safer this way.
- Don't ever click the links that arrive in your phone's inbox, or in SMS or MMS messages that come from unknown senders. Often, these links lead to sites that will infect your phone with malware.
As you can see, keeping your Android phone free from viruses isn't that hard. Just apply the tips above and you should be safe.