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How to properly secure your Android to keep snoops out

It’s not very often I let my cellphone out of my sight, but when it happens I feel like a fish out of water. There’s this eerie feeling that comes over me: What if I miss a call or an email? What if I need to do a quick Google search to find some information?

But the interesting thing is that, when this happens, I rarely worry about my gadget’s security. Why is that?

Well, for me, it’s because I have the advantage of working for Komando.com, and I follow the advice that we offer. In other words, I’ve taken the steps to secure my gadget so it’s protected against snoops and hackers.

For others out there, I’m sure there’s a different reason why their gadget’s security (or lack thereof) doesn’t cause them to lose sleep at night. It’s probably because they’re not aware of just how many threats are out there that can impact Android tablets and smartphones. For example, did you know there’s currently a mobile wireless flaw that allows hackers to pinpoint your exact location? And that’s just the beginning. Click here to discover more security risks every smartphone user should be aware of.

Lock your device properly

This seems obvious. Although it may place one extra step between you and your gadget’s content, it also adds a barrier for an unwanted visitor.

There are multiple ways to lock your Android device, including passwords, patterns, fingerprints and PINS. Most of these options offer great protection, however, we don’t recommend that you use a pattern. This is because patterns are much easier to guess or crack since your fingers leave smudges on the screen that can be traced back by hackers.

We also don’t recommend that you use any type of facial recognition as a security measure, especially since this feature on the Galaxy S8s can be fooled by holding a photo of you in front of your phone’s camera.

While we’re talking about lock screens, there’s also another related setting you should probably avoid. It’s called “Smart Lock On-body detection,” and it basically leaves your phone unlocked whenever it’s on your person. Which won’t be a problem unless you get pickpocketed. If someone can snatch your gadget from your back pocket or backpack, you’ve basically just given them free access to everything you have stored on it.

You’ll find this feature in your Settings menu, so make sure you tap Skip.

Watch out for malicious apps

Unfortunately, not all of the apps out there can be trusted. Certainly not from third-party vendors, and (unfortunately) not even in the Google Play Store. Just recently we warned you about malicious apps that were found spying on Android users’ private text messages.

Fortunately, Google is stepping up its game and taking action to help make detecting fake apps easier. In July, the company rolled out something called Google Play Protect.

This tool is designed to work in the background, protecting users from malicious apps in real time. First, it scans and verifies any app that is available in the Google Play Store. Then it will continue scanning installed apps for any changes in behavior and warn you about any security dangers they might pose. 

Google Play Protect is available through a software update you’ll need to install on your Android device. To check for this update, first, you’ll need to make sure you have the latest update installed on your Android gadget. (To check for updates: open Settings >> tap About phone >> tap System updates >> tap Check for updates.)

If an update is available, it will download automatically, you just need to restart the device for it to install.

To check if Google Play Protect is on, navigate to Settings >> Google >> Security >> Google Play Protect (may also show up as Verify Apps in some phones) then make sure it’s toggled on.

That’s it. Once it’s on, Google Play Protect will constantly monitor your device for threats and check for any updates on its own. However, it’s still a good idea that you follow these best practices whenever installing a new app on your Android:

  • App stores – Stay away from third-party app stores because they do little vetting of apps, making it easier for scammers to spread malware there. Google Play and Apple’s App Store are the most secure way to download apps. The malicious apps mentioned in this article are in fact in the Google Play Store, which is rare.
  • Check the apps’ developer – Verifying the name of the app developer is important. Copycat apps will have a different developer’s name than the actual one. Before downloading an app, do a Google search to find the original developer.
  • Reviews – Most of the popular apps will have reviews by other users in the app store. You can sometimes find reviews by experts online. These are helpful at pointing out malicious or faulty apps. If you find a review warning the app is malicious, do NOT download it.

If you do think that your Android device has been infected with a virus, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Click here to find out how to detect and remove a virus on your Android gadget.

Back up your phone and tablet

At the bare minimum, you should be backing up all of your gadget’s data to a cloud service. One option is to use Android Backup Service. That way, if you have to replace your gadget or erase its data, you can restore your information from any Google Account that you backed up. This includes Google Calendar settings, Wi-Fi networks and passwords, home screen wallpapers, Gmail settings, apps installed through Google Play, display settings and more. Click here for a deeper look at how Android Backup Service works.

A major downfall of Android Backup Service is that it only backs up an individual account. But, chances are, you have more gadgets around your house. Some of them may be Android, some Apple, some Windows. 

If you’re really serious about backing up your data, it’s best to sign up for an account with our sponsor IDrive.

IDrive’s Universal Backup protects up to five devices with just a single account, and it works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS operating systems. Plus, IDrive lets you backup data from your social media accounts so you’ll never lose special photos or videos if your account gets hacked.

IDrive offers a free option as well that provides up to 5 GB of storage, with no expiration. But, for around $5 per month, you can get up to 2 TB of storage so you never have to worry about running out of space.

We’ve talked about all of the cyberthreats out there that put your data at risk, but don’t forget there are other ways you could lose everything on your devices at the drop of a hat. Theft, water damage and hardware malfunctions are just a handful of examples. 

When you’ve taken the right steps to secure your device and back up your data, you’ll never have to play the “what if” game again. Get peace of mind! Click here and use promo code KIM at checkout to save 50 percent on 2 TB of cloud backup storage with IDrive!

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