Is your smartphone sufficiently protected? You can never be too careful. Follow these tips to add an extra layer of security to Android.
The smartphone has become an indispensable part of our daily lives. From sending messages to shopping online, we can and do almost everything with our mobile phone these days. The growing reliance on smartphones also has a downside. A large amount of personal data about us, such as passwords and credit card data, is stored on it. And with a company smartphone, you have access to important data from your employer. That makes the smartphone in 2022 a very interesting target for hackers to get their hands on that data. Therefore, it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to properly protect your smartphone. As a user, you ultimately remain ultimately responsible for this. In this smartphone security crash course, we list the most important smartphone security tips. We hope that most of these tips are already known, but it never hurts to repeat them. We write from an Android perspective, but many of these tips can also be applied to iOS devices, although the name of a setting or where exactly you can find it may differ.
lock your screen
A good step to start with is to set up a lock screen or lock screen. With a lock screen, your screen automatically locks as soon as your smartphone is idle for even a fraction of a second. To be able to use your smartphone again, you need to unlock your screen again. That may sound annoying, but it ensures that if you lose your smartphone somewhere or it gets stolen, someone else can’t just use your smartphone. You can set a lock screen through your smartphone settings in the Password and biometrics menu. There are several ways to lock the screen. It has the classic form with a password or PIN code or you can rely on modern biometric technology. Both ways have their pros and cons. With an old password or PIN code, you can assume that they will work in all circumstances. But a password or PIN can be cracked, especially if you use an easy-to-guess password. In principle, biometric security (fingerprint or facial recognition) cannot be cracked, your fingerprint is unique, but your smartphone scanners are not ready yet. If your smartphone does not recognize your fingerprint, it will be locked. A combination of password and biometric security works best.
Two step verification
Do you have many online accounts? Then it is essential to configure the verification in two steps. With 2-Step Verification, you literally add an extra layer of security to your accounts. When you log in on an unknown device with your username and password, a notification will be sent to your email address and/or phone number. For example, you still have to authorize that login attempt, and you’re also doing it yourself from a new device. Two-step verification prevents an unknown person from accessing your account and can also be a warning that your password is not watertight. If you have an Android smartphone, you should definitely set it up for your Google account. You do this in the Google account in the security menu. In the course of page 108 of this issue, we’ll take a closer look at how to set up two-step verification.
We often use our smartphone to browse the Internet, so it makes sense that you do it in the most secure way possible. Here we have some simple tricks. A first trick is to go incognito while browsing. If you are incognito, your activity will not be saved and third parties will not be able to send you cookies. In Google Chrome, the default browser for Android, you can easily open an incognito window via the bubble menu at the top right. If you don’t like those secret things, it is recommended to install a good adblocker. Pop-ups and commercial breaks are annoying when browsing anyway, but behind an ad there may be a malicious link. Webmasters often have no choice but to choose which ads appear on their website. A good ad blocker for Chrome is AdBlock. Also, be careful on public Wi-Fi networks. To save some mobile data, it’s very tempting to connect to a free, public Wi-Fi network. But from a security point of view, this is not recommended, since public Wi-Fi networks are generally not very secure. A skilled hacker can use public Wi-Fi networks to get your browsing data. Therefore, do not enter a password or credit card details anywhere if you are connected to a public network, and be careful when entering phone numbers and email addresses to gain access.
Tip: Do you really want to be invisible on the Internet? Then use a VPN server. This redirects your IP address to a server in a different location, so that it can no longer be traced back to your device. As a bonus, the server also allows you to access online content that would not otherwise be available in Belgium. A VPN usually only costs you a few euros per month. VPN services that we can recommend are PureVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark.
Where there is smoke, there is malware
Malware is a popular attack technique among cybercriminals and they try to bring it to us in various ways. Fake links in emails or ads are classic, but smartphone apps can be a Trojan horse too. To reduce the possibility of installing unauthorized apps, we recommend that you only download apps from the Google Play Store through the authorized path. Google Play Protect app store’s built-in virus scanner checks all the apps you want to install for traces of malware. Apk files are sometimes used to install apps that cannot be found in the app store, but you should pay attention to this. You don’t always know what you’re getting, and apps no longer update after installation. Google Play’s detection system is also not completely watertight. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to install a good antivirus scanner and run it regularly. Cybersecurity can be compared to fire detection. The more smoke detectors you have in your home, the quicker you’ll be notified of a potential fire, and the quicker you can take steps to limit the damage. The same goes for viruses. If a virus can be detected preemptively, you can still intervene before the virus damages your device. We can certainly recommend the mobile apps from Bitdefender, Norton Antivirus and Avast.
Keep your smartphone up to date
Updates always seem to come at the wrong time, but it’s best to install them as soon as they’re available. As an Android user, you are usually entitled to one or two major system updates, but it is mainly the smaller security updates that are of great importance for the security of your smartphone. Every day new vulnerabilities arise in the Android operating system or in an application. Hackers also appear to be becoming more adamant about exploiting such “zero-day vulnerabilities.” Security updates include patches for the most recently discovered vulnerabilities. How often you receive an update varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. For most brands, this is monthly or quarterly. Android’s update policy is still much less advanced than Apple’s, but we do see a positive evolution in this among manufacturers. For example, Samsung has been offering support for its newest smartphones for four years. You can get updates through the menu Update the software in the settings. Here you can check if there are any new updates available for your smartphone and install them manually. Make it easy for them by checking the option to install updates automatically. In this way, you can be sure that your smartphone is always up to date. Also, you can set your phone to update overnight when it is idle.
Link multiple users
This hack is for the advanced Android user. Starting with Android 5.0, you have the option to link multiple user accounts to one device. You’ll find that option in the menu. Users and accounts back. In addition to the owner or administrator (this is you, of course), there is a guest account by default. That only has access to a limited number of apps and also limited rights to adjust settings. You can use the guest account, for example, to lend your device to a friend or family member. If you change the owner again, you must first unlock the screen. In addition to the guest account, you can add multiple users, for whom you can create unique security at a time. You can use these multiple accounts to distribute your most important data and files, among other things. So a hacker must already be able to crack multiple accounts to get away with all your data.
Of course, a little privacy should not be lacking in this course. If your smartphone already has Android 12, you should definitely discover the new privacy panel. Here you can manage the permissions for all apps on your smartphone through a clear menu. The privacy panel can be found in the privacy menu in settings. For example, on the chart, select Location to see which apps have access to your location. You can also view and adjust all permissions per app. It is recommended that you disable permissions for apps that you do not use. Not only is it good for your privacy, but hackers can also use an app to gain access to your camera, microphone, or other parts.
Keep in mind that smartphone security is an ongoing process. Keep repeating the above tips regularly to keep your smartphone security up to date.