The smartphone operating system has been on a triumphant advance since Google introduced Android in 2008. Almost all well-known smartphone manufacturers, with the exception of Apple (iOS), rely on the software for their smartphones. Thanks to the use of the operating system in smartphones from Samsung, Huawei, LG, and many other providers.
The great popularity of Android is due, among other things, to the fact that the software is open to manufacturer-specific adjustments – contrary to Apple’s approach and its iOS operating system. That means, the open-source principle is followed, so to speak. Smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung or Huawei can change the menu structure or pre-install certain apps in the Play Store so that the system and Android devices get an individual touch. At the same time, Android is also a popular platform for third-party providers: Google’s Play Store currently offers its users over 2.5 million app versions from all imaginable areas.
Since Android is free software (open source) and at the same time it is extremely popular, the software is attractive to attackers. Any security gaps could therefore lead to data theft or even loss of control. We have therefore compiled the most important security tips for optimal security settings in Android below.
Measures to increase the security of Android smartphones
Install regular Android updates
Carrying out regular security and Android updates on the part of the user is particularly important, as these close known vulnerabilities in various Android versions. The risk of attack is reduced by constant updates. The current status of the security patch and updates is stored under the menu item “About the phone”, ie the last update installed on the Android device is displayed. However, this does not guarantee that some older updates are missing, and therefore known security gaps still exist. A gateway for malware is then open here. The additional installation of virus protection or antivirus software is therefore advisable to protect the smartphone from malware.
The reason for malware security gaps: Due to a large number of different smartphone manufacturers and their individually adapted Android versions, Android security patches or updates cannot be distributed centrally. The patches are therefore passed on by Google to the chip manufacturers and from there to the smartphone manufacturers. In some cases, the providers have to adapt the security updates to their end devices. Even old smartphones are no longer supplied with updates after a certain period of time. As a rule of thumb, one can state that the manufacturers ensure a steady supply of updated patches and updates for at least two years after market launch.
The Android app is recommended to track the security status of the Android updates on the respective Android system. It can be used to scan the Android smartphone – be it from the manufacturer Samsung, Huawei, or the like – for any missing updates. In this way, any update gaps that may arise can be closed; The smartphone and its software version are thus at the safest level.
Updates: Set up automatic updates for all mobile apps
The automatic update of apps not only increases performance and stability but also Android security. Under the “Settings” menu item, the “Automatic app updates” function can be found in the smartphone, with which you can download the latest version of the respective app. You can choose between three options:
- Don’t allow automatic app updates
- Update apps automatically at any time
- Allow automatic app & software updates only via WiFi
In principle, the second and third options are recommended, as you do not run the risk of forgetting to update the app. Depending on the monthly inclusive volume of the mobile phone tariff, the automatic update via WLAN may be the better choice to protect your smartphone. Of course, apps can also be updated manually, but there is a risk of forgetting important updates.
Install apps only from trustworthy sources
Among the huge number of apps available in the Google Play Store, there are a few dubious offers that contain malicious code. Google has installed a variety of measures to detect malware. However, it cannot be completely ruled out that individual apps of the Android version violate the specifications.
It is therefore advisable to deactivate the Android function “Installation of apps of unknown origin” in the menu. This ensures that only apps that are officially available in the Google Play Store and that are subject to the corresponding security standards can be installed on the smartphone.
There are also apps that can be used to specifically improve the security of the popular Samsung, Huawei, and other Android smartphones, such as antivirus apps. A scan of the app authorizations is also useful. Certain apps may have access to the camera or location data, for example, but this is not necessary for their actual purpose. You should check that before installing an app under “Authorization details” in the Google Play Store. The authorizations of apps already installed on the smartphone can be found under “Settings” in the “Apps” menu item.
Protection when surfing the Internet using a VPN tunnel
When surfing the Internet, you should exercise caution, especially with free WiFi offers. Data can be read out relatively easily via unsecured WLAN connections, and telephone calls can even eavesdrop with the appropriate tools.
It is therefore advisable to set up a VPN tunnel (Virtual Privacy Network). The data is transmitted in encrypted form, so the data is safe from third-party access. The home router, for example, can also serve as a VPN server. Well-known router manufacturers such as AVM or Netgear have often integrated appropriate VPN functions here. Alternatively, there are free solutions for mobile surfing on Android, e.g. Opera VPN.
A VPN tunnel can be set up under Android in just a few simple steps: In the “Settings” menu, click on “Additional settings” and then “VPN”. Then it is sufficient to enter the connection data and the IP address of the server in the input window. You can then surf safely while on the move and pursue your online activities carefreely.
Theft protection on Android
In order to protect the Android smartphone from unauthorized access in the event of loss or theft, the manufacturer Google offers corresponding functions. If the smartphone is lost, it is not only annoying because of the hardware, it is also often the loss of valuable and personal data. The general rule here: Always leave the screen lock activated and carry out regular backups so that the most important things can be restored in the worst-case scenario.
With Android, there are also various options for controlling the smartphone remotely. Google allows location, blocking, and, in an emergency, deletion of the data on the end device. In addition, a message with a telephone number or email address can be displayed on the lock screen, which enables a potential finder to contact you.
A prerequisite for using the protection at Google is a Google account and an internet connection (mobile or WiFi) for the lost smartphone or stolen cell phone. In addition, the location function must be activated in the settings under the heading “Security”. The smartphone can also be encrypted here.
Conclusion – regular updates ensure a high level of security under Android
Even the basic settings of Android offer helpful functions for increasing smartphone security. The seamless installation of security updates and automatic updating of the apps are particularly important here. In addition, you should carefully check the origin of new apps and restrict unnecessary access permissions if necessary.
In order to contain the negative consequences of losing a smartphone, we recommend encrypting the data and activating remote access. In this way, sensitive data can be deleted afterward in an emergency. If you lose your smartphone, you should immediately change the passwords for websites and mail accounts that may have been automatically saved there. And should you actually have lost your mobile phone – which nobody wishes for you?