Despite the ground that Apple’s iOS has been conquering lately, Android is still the dominant mobile operating system on the market, which also makes it a target for all sorts of attacks and threats. That’s why it’s important to be up to date with the latest news about all the ingenious new ways that can strike Android devices and, most of all, what to do to prevent any damage. From Google accounts and app permissions to third-party software and security settings that are already built into Android devices, there’s no lack of resources available to have a cleaner and safer smartphone or tablet.
Android Native Privacy Settings
The first level of defense comes from the inside, meaning the security settings that are already built into your device.
Obviously, your phone cannot be put inside a protective bubble, but one of the simplest tasks to keep everyone from accessing your data, apps and whatnot is to set a strong PIN code for unlocking the phone. And to make things a bit more comfortable, Smart Lock is a handy feature that allows user to choose when and how the phone should unlock. The options include on-body detection, voice matching, facial recognition, and trusted places and devices, the last of which makes it easier to access the phone at home or connect it to your car’s Bluetooth radio, for instance.
Screen pinning and lockdown mode are two other features that most people don’t take the time to explore or don’t even know about at all, the first being particularly interesting and useful for those who lend their devices to others.
In a nutshell, a certain app can be locked to prevent whoever has borrowed a device from being able to use anything but the specified app. Activating screen pinning is done within the advanced security settings, and then by launching the app you want to pin. Once done, the liberty of movement is restricted to that app and all other functions will be disabled. The only downside, though, is that a message will appear explaining how to unpin the app, but so long as a PIN code has already been set for your device then it’ll be required before unpinning the app. It can be useful for parents who want to allow their kids to play their favorite game, but don’t want to open up their own device completely.
Regarding lockdown mode, this is an Android 9 Pie exclusive. It’s quite a hidden feature, but something that everyone should know about and – hopefully – will never need to make use of, as this is a countermeasure feature designed to prevent authentication methods from working. It was designed to put Android users one step ahead of potential attackers and protect their files in risky situations, for example if someone else attempts to force them to unlock their phone against their wishes. Fingerprint, face, and voice recognition will be all blocked until your pattern, PIN, or password is manually entered and no notifications will be displayed either. Lockdown mode can be activated in the lock screen preferences part of the settings and must be restarted after each use.
Safe Online Browsing and Third-Party Apps
After optimizing the device’s privacy and settings it’s finally the time to jump online, where you can never be too careful. Chrome is Android’s default browser and even though there are some protective measures in place, we all know of Google’s integrated tracking methods, so it’s no shame if you would rather install and use a safer browser. In this regard, pay close attention to fake apps and the permissions that they require, as they can give attackers full control of your device. Avoid enabling the option to install apps from unknown sources and it’s never a bad idea to turn on two-factor authentication for your Google account.
Last but not least, consider using a VPN for mobile, as these tools will ensure internet browsing is secure when connecting to public Wi-Fi and bring with them some additional privacy features such as ad blockers, strong encryption cyphers, traffic obfuscators, and much more.
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