Does a perfect operating system exist? Of course, not! Like all other mobile operating systems, Android has a few flaws that make it a good target of many cyberattacks. Although Google constantly elaborates on new methods to improve security, there are still numerous attacks that arise on a daily basis. So, what can you do to protect your Android device?
Actually, there are many things where the simplest involve activating some of your device’s settings. Below, we have listed some changes you can apply to your device to increase your device’s security.
An awful reality of Android security hides in our carelessness — either in neglecting some basic security principles on your device or leaving open too many tabs that allow third-party apps to access your data — is far more likely to be dangerous than any malware or scary-sounding virus.
However, the last couple of Android versions included some new significant app permission options. Mainly, now you can allow apps to access your location only when they’re actively in use and approve specific requests only once. But any apps that had already been installed before the new updates were introduced still have unrestricted access to your device.
So, to change the settings, you need to do the following: go into the Privacy menu of your system settings and find the “Permission Manager” section. That’ll display you a list of all available system permissions, including such crucial parameters as location, camera, and microphone — the same three parameters that can be restricted to one-time use only on any phone running Android 11.
Google Play Protect
As far as apps on your phone are concerned, this is the right time to mention Google Play Protect — Android’s inbuilt security system that unceasingly scans your device for any signs of suspicious behavior of apps and warns you if anything shady happens.
Unless you (or someone else) somehow accidentally deactivated it, Play Protect should be up and working on your device already — but it certainly won’t take much time to double-check and make sure.
Just open up the Security menu of your Android system settings. Tap the line named “Google Play Protect,” then press the gear icon in the upper-right corner and make sure the toggles are switched on.
Go back on the main Play Protect tab, and you’ll see a status update displaying that the system is active and running. It works entirely automatically, but you can always launch a manual scan of your apps on that page if you feel a need.
Chrome is usually the default Android browser — and while using it, it can warn you anytime you try to open a suspicious site or download something shady.
While Chrome’s Safe Browsing is activated by default, the app has an updated and more effective version of the same system named Enhanced Safe Browsing. And it’s up to you to decide whether to enable it.
Indeed, you can find more relevant information about what exactly Enhanced Safe Browsing is, why it might be essential to install, and how you can run it on your device. However, in brief, if you’re an active Internet user, an extra security shield won’t hurt.
Lock Screen Limitations
If someone ever gets their hands on your phone, you will likely want them to prohibit access to your data.
Here remember that Android usually displays notifications on your lock screen by default — which means the contents of messages you get might be visible to anyone who takes your device, even if they can’t access it.
If you are likely to get private texts or just want to improve your security system, you can select how much notification info is displayed on your lock screen. Go to the Privacy menu of your system settings, then tap “Notifications on the Lock Screen,” and then change its setting from “Show All Notification Content” to either “Show Sensitive Content Only When Unlocked” or “Don’t Show Notifications at All.”
Security is only efficient if you properly apply it to your device — and our laziness after a while or some extra level of inconvenience that security settings bear might make us let our guards down.
Android’s Smart Lock feature is designed for struggling with that tendency by making security settings a bit less irritating. It can enable you to automatically keep your phone unlocked whenever you’re in a safe place — like your home — or when you’re connected to a trusted network or trusted devices, like your smartwatch, some earphones, or your car’s audio system.
This feature is typical to Google accounts and not specific to Android, but it’s closely related to Android and your overall device security system.
If you haven’t set it yet, now’s the time to do it. Move to the Google section of your phone’s system settings, press “Manage your Google Account,” and then select the “Security” tab. Find and line “2-Step Verification” and follow the path to set everything up.
If you’re using Android 9 or higher, an option named Lockdown Mode is well worth your efforts to figure out. Once enabled, it gives you a possibility to temporarily restrict your device from all biometric security options — meaning only a PIN or password can allow a person to pass your lock screen and access your phone.
The idea is that if you happen to get in a situation where you are forced to unlock your phone with your face ID or fingerprints, you could launch the lockdown mode so that unwanted people couldn’t access your phone without your permission. Even notifications won’t appear on your lock screen unless you manually unlock your phone (even if the device is reloaded).
To confirm that the mode it’s launched, open up your system settings, search for the word lockdown, and make sure the toggle “Show Lockdown Option” is switched on.
With that activated, you should see a command labeled either “Lockdown” or “Lockdown Mode” anytime you press and hold your phone’s power button. We hope you’ll never need this option. But it’s an excellent extra layer of security to have, just in case — and now you know how to enable it.
One of Android’s most useful security options is, at the same time, one of its most hidden. That’s all about screen pinning — the feature introduced in 2014 and seldom discussed since.
Screen pinning makes it possible to lock a single app or process and requires a password or fingerprint authentication before access. It can be necessary when you pass your phone off to someone else and want to be sure they don’t unintentionally access something they shouldn’t.
To activate screen pinning, you’ll first need to open the Security section in your settings and then find “Screen Pinning.” Activate the feature and make sure the toggle “Ask for Unlock Pattern Before Unpinning” is on.
Suppose you want to go another way and let someone else use all functions of your phone without ever accessing your data. In that case, Android has a flexible system that will enable you to do that without ongoing efforts involved.
It’s named Guest Mode, and it was first introduced in 2014. However, most users have entirely forgotten about it. Next time you’re about to give your phone to a friend, partner, colleague, family member, take 10 seconds first to do this:
- Move to the System menu of your phone’s settings.
- Press “Advanced.”
- On the screen that comes up, switch the toggle at the top into the on position.
- Open the full Quick Settings panel by swiping down twice from the top of your screen.
- Tap your user profile picture, which is going to be a blank person icon.
- Tap the “Add Guest” option on the screen that comes up.
After that, your phone should report that the Guest Mode is activated — with a generic-looking home screen and only some basic system apps in place. If you open anything personal, you’ll be required to sign in.
Find My Device
Whether you’ve lost your phone around the house or office, remember that Android has its inbuilt technique for locating, locking, and even erasing a device remotely.
Indeed, the “Find My Device” option should be activated by default. You can see it by moving to the Security menu and pressing the line “Find My Device.” Make sure that the toggle at the top of the screen is turned on.
Once you’ve double-checked the setting is activated, test it out by going to android.com/find from any browser on your device.
Unless you’re able to sign in to your Google account, you’ll be able to define your phone’s last location and manage it remotely in a way you need.
Emergency Contact Info
In some situations, you might get a missing phone back even faster with the help of people. Here you need to add an emergency contact that can be dialed with some quick motions on your lock screen. First, go to the “About Phone” section of your system settings, then find and tap “Emergency Information.”
And finally, follow the instructions to add an emergency contact — it can be any person close to you.
Now you’ve got all your vital Android security settings optimized. Here you may test your device out to make sure everything is done correctly. Besides, it’s necessary to perform a thorough checkup at least once a year to make sure none of the security options are accidentally changed or switched off due to recent Android updates. The best thing about this checkup is that it is completely painless — at the same time, it is essential to your system.