Android is an increasingly popular operating system for mobile devices, running on more than 1.4 billion mobile devices worldwide. And more mobile users than ever are navigating the internet on these devices, with 56 percent of traffic to the web’s most popular sites coming from mobile devices as of 2015. All of this means that, if you use an Android device, it could be at risk from malware. In 2013, 99 percent of malware targeted Android devices, but only 5 percent of mobile devices are running an antivirus program.
If you’re one of the many Android users who isn’t using an antivirus program or who wasn’t even aware that these devices needed such protection, don’t panic just yet. Just as you can keep your PC safe with a combination of user precautions and a good anti-malware program, you can protect your phone by avoiding suspicious apps, tweaking your settings, and installing a trusted antivirus app.
Don’t Download Anything You Can’t Trust
When it comes to downloading apps on your tablet or smartphone, your safest bet is to only download apps from legitimate sources, like the Google Play Store, Amazon, Samsung, or another major manufacturer or developer website. These marketplaces are monitored, and while the occasional malicious or fraudulent app does slip in, apps available from these reputable sellers are, in general, much less likely to contain malware than apps you may have sideloaded. If you want to sideload an app, make sure you get it directly from the developer and that you trust the developer. Don’t pirate apps; not only is it illegal, but pirates often bundle malicious software in with the pirated legitimate application package (APK) file.
Even though you can trust most apps available from sources like the Play Store or Amazon, it’s a good idea to check the reviews before you download anything. If an app is fraudulent or suspicious, you’ll usually see a string of bad reviews that seek to warn other users. But what if you forget to check the reviews? An app that asks for permissions that seem fishy or unnecessary or that make you uncomfortable might contain malicious elements. Why does that solitaire app need access to your contacts list and camera? Maybe you should delete it.
Use Your Google Settings Wisely
If your device is running Android 2.2 or higher, you can take advantage of some of the Google Settings that have been included on your phone to protect against malware attacks. Open the Google Settings app on your device’s app drawer, and enable the “Verify apps” option. If your device is running Android 4.2 or higher, you’ll need to go to Settings > Security in order to enable Verify apps. Doing so will allow Google to scan any apps you may have downloaded from sources other than the Play Store. You’ll get a notification if the scan shows anything suspicious.
You should also receive a notification if an app tries to send an SMS using a premium service, so that suspicious charges for premium texts don’t appear on your phone bill. Speaking of phone bills, it’s a good idea to go over yours every month; if you see charges for apps, in-app purchases, or other transactions you didn’t authorize, this could be a sign your phone or tablet has been compromised.
Install an Antivirus App
If you connect to the internet at all on your tablet or phone, you need an antivirus app. But with so many choices available from the Play Store and other app stores, how do you choose the right antivirus protection?
Go with an app from a trusted name in the industry, like TrendMicro, Kaspersky, or AVG. Go to AV-Test.org to read independent reviews of antivirus, anti-malware, and security apps for Android devices. Many apps offer more than just antivirus and anti-malware protection; additional features that could come in handy include remote wiping, browser protection, device tracking, and theft prevention.
If you’re running an Android device, you need to be mindful of security threats to these operating systems. Your smartphone or tablet needs antivirus protection just as much as your laptop or desktop PC. Use an antivirus program and be careful when downloading new apps, and you’ll be able to use your device with the confidence that comes from playing it safe.