March 24, 2014
Quick Guide: Fun With Phone Security Settings for Your Android
I might be biased, but the best thing you can do for your phone is downloading Lookout on it. Who doesn’t love blocking mobile threats like Dendroid and being able to make your lost phone sound a loud alarm underneath the couch cushions? But after you’ve done that, there’s still a ton of “fun” security settings on your Android to explore. And by “fun,” I mean “potentially confusing, but definitely important to understand.” So let’s make sense of a few of the most important settings you’ll see on 4.0 and above versions of Android.
Getting to Your Settings
There are two ways to get to your phone’s settings. You can swipe down on the notification bar at the top of your phone display, then tap on the top right account icon, then tap on Settings. Or you can tap on the “all apps” app tray icon in the bottom middle of your home screen. This will show you a list of apps, and you can swipe through to find and tap on Settings.
Settle In With Your Phone and Set Up These Settings First
Once you've figured out how to access your settings, it's time to start securing. Here are the settings can have the biggest impact on your mobile security and on keeping your personal data secure.
Set a password and automatic screen lock
Under Settings>Security, you’ll see “screen lock” and “automatically lock” options. Set up a PIN or password to unlock your phone. Then make sure your screen automatically locks after a period of idle time, like 30 seconds or one minute. Yes, it can be totally annoying to have to unlock your phone every time you want to see the latest selfies in your Instagram feed, but a locked screen is your first line of defense against any snoops (or thieves, even!) accessing all the personal information and saved accounts on your phone.
Block Unwanted App Downloads with “Unknown Sources” setting
Also under Settings>Security, you’ll see “Unknown sources: Allow installation of apps from unknown sources.” We recommend you make sure this box is unchecked. “Unknown sources” are basically anything other than Google Play Store. Downloading and installing app files from forums, email attachments, or from alternative third-party app stores is much riskier, and put you in risk of encountering malware. Also, there are websites that will try to trick you with “drive-by download” attacks, automatically downloading a malicious app when you visit the site on your phone (like the NotCompatible malware).
Make sure you know your Device Administrators
Under Settings>Security>Device Administrator, you’ll see a list of apps that get special system-level capabilities, which cannot be removed from your phone without first removing the Device Administrator access first. Lookout uses the Device Admin access for our find my phone features, like remotely locking and wiping your phone. This ensures that if anyone does steal your phone, you can block unwanted access to your sensitive data, and you can have the best chance of getting your phone back. If, for whatever crazy reason, you need to uninstall Lookout from your device, you’d need to first make sure to uncheck the Device Administrator access.
Make sure NFC (near-field communication) is off
So, it’s been a while since security researcher Charlie Miller did a proof of concept that NFC could be hacked, and we haven’t seen these attacks exploding in the wild, but with anything that might be connected to your digital wallet, it’s better safe than sorry. To make sure NFC setting is turned off, go to Settings, and then More under Wireless & Networks. You can always turn it back on temporarily, if you ever need to use something Google Wallet or Android Beam.
Get Advanced: More Recommended Settings
There are a lot of more settings to play with. Here are a few big categories to explore:
General Device Settings
Your gateway to all of your apps' settings. Click through categories like Display, Sound and Networks to get the most out of your device. Location Choose whether apps are able to access your location, turn on GPS, and determine whether WiFi and mobile networks can find your location.
Set preferred networks to connect to, instead of burning through your data allotment.
Set factors, like screen brightness, GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi, to go into power-saving mode when your battery gets low. Hope this guide helps you out!
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