Android Security tips: Armour-plate your smartphone

6 Jul 2012

The tools you need to protect your phone or tablet from virus, theft and loss

With massive growth over the last couple of years, it seems that everyone and their dog has an Android device, whether it's an ultra-cheap tablet with limited processor power and functionality or a top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone.

Unfortunately, it's just this kind of popularity which attracts the makers of malicious software. Previous predictions of smartphone threats, for operating systems such as Symbian, proved to be empty-handed; but Android users have been plagued by a range of malicious apps already. These range from dialers that send premium-rate text messages without your knowledge, to spyware designed to steal your passwords when you use your phone for internet banking.

Last week, we went to speak to the makers of the popular Avast! anti-virus software, which is available in free versions for a variety of formats, including Android. During our trip, we managed to lose an Android phone, which emphasised to us just how easy it is to be parted from a sizeable chunk of personal data.

Fortunately, there are a range of products - including but not limited to Avast's - designed to help you track down your phone even after it's already flown the coop. Unfortunately, while this real-world experience proved to be a help in writing this piece, our phone has yet to rematerialise.

Here are our top seven features for protecting your phone against the worst the world can throw at it.

1. Install anti-theft tools
There are plenty of anti-theft tools for Android, whether you want to be able to remotely delete your data, track down your lost phone or even take a photo of the perpetrator. It's worth noting that you may have to ignore the usually sound advice about not allowing your phone to install non-market apps to make some anti-theft tools work properly.

[IMG ID="169822"]Avast Anti-Theft for Android[/IMG]
Avast Anti-Theft for Android

This includes the free Avast anti-theft and anti-virus app, which can also has extra features that only work if your phone has been 'rooted' to give you access to superuser commands, including a deep-level installation that means your anti-theft protection will remain functional even if the thief attempts to factory reset the device. Whether you do that or not, it lets you disguise the tracking app with a name of your choice and - if you phone is lost or stolen - lets you instruct it to contact you, report its location, wipe the contents of your phone, take control of the cameras and more besides. It's essentially rather sophisticated spyware installed for your own protection.

2. Install tracking tools after the event
If your phone's already gone missing, though, you'll need something much simpler and which doesn't require extensive configuration. We like Plan B, which you can remotely install from via the Google Play store and which will email you as soon as it detects that your missing phone is switched on and within range of a cellular tower.

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