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Today, every Android phone is a small computer.
With only a phone in your pocket, the possibilities are endless.
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Browse the web from multiple devices with industry-standard security protocols.
Connect to thousands of servers for persistent seamless browsing.
Unfortunately, so are possibilities of third parties prying into your sensitive data.
In the darker parts of the Internet, many online threats are being born right now. Each is more dangerous than the previous one, and they all seek to steal information and damage your devices.
Today we’ll take a deep dive into the most common threats the average Android user faces and what to do to prevent and mitigate them.
Without further ado, let’s see how you can secure your Android device.
What are the security risks for Android users?
Some of the most common threats include malware, ransomware, and phishing attempts. Not only that, Android users are vulnerable to data tracking and spying.
Even though many don’t realize it, viruses and malware can affect mobile devices pretty much the same way they do computers.
Moreover, there are companies that wish to harvest your information in order to target you with more relevant ads.
To top it all off, there are spying agencies that are becoming more and more equipped with info about every one of the citizens that they are supposed to protect.
So, obviously, the situation is not at all bright for Android users.
A hacker with some skill doesn’t have to steal your phone anymore in order to hack into it.
Remember that most phones have access to your bank account, social media, and personal emails. Not to mention your home address, family pictures, contact list, personal text, calendars, and other sensitive info.
Losing this kind of info can ruin your life.
So what can you do about it? Well, there are a few things to further secure your Android device.
Let’s take them one by one.
How to secure your Android phone?
1. Use A VPN
VPNs are one of the best ways to secure your Android phone.
This is possible because VPNs use three basic layers of protection (as well as multiple smaller features that differ from provider to provider).
They work by creating a secure tunnel that connects your phone and the internet.
When your data travels between these two points, it goes through this tunnel.
By doing so, it has protection from view, and nobody can know what you are doing, or exploit that information. That includes your ISP.
However, no security system is perfect on its own, which is why VPNs employ a second layer of protection – encryption.
The Encryption will make your data unreadable.
Therefore, even if there is a leak, those who might collect leaking data won’t know what they are looking at. The best VPNs use only the most powerful encryption, and those cannot be broken or breached.
Finally, we have a server network.
Every VPN has its own servers, although their number and locations are different for every provider.
These servers are scattered around the world, and they can be found in many different countries. When you connect to a VPN, you are also connecting to one of these servers.
By doing so, you are hiding your real IP address, and instead of that one, you are using an IP assigned by the VPN server you are connecting to.
This is useful because your IP carries a lot of info, including your location. Therefore, anyone who tries to locate you via IP will only find the location of the server.
Also, all of your online actions usually get recorded on an IP. If you are not using your own, then nobody can connect that info back to you.
Another useful perk that you get this way is the ability to bypass geo-restrictions.
They exist because some sites and online services decide to limit their audience to only a certain region or country.
By changing your IP, you change your apparent location. So, if you have chosen the right one, you can get access to the content that these sites provide.
Which VPN to use?
There are over 850 of them currently, which makes choosing the right one quite a challenge. Especially because not all of them are equally as good.
In fact, there are many of them that can’t provide decent protection, despite the fact that they are promising it.
This is especially true when it comes to free VPNs. Not only can they not protect you as well as premium ones, but they might also collect and send your private data in order to make money.
If you wish a good, strong protection for your Android, you will have to go for a premium one.
Now, since choosing the right one is difficult, and since the new users usually don’t know what to look for, we have done our own tests.
By doing so, we can point you in the right direction and recommend several VPNs that you can trust to protect you as best as possible.
So let’s see which they are and what they can offer.
ExpressVPN is currently one of the top choices in the entire VPN industry.
It can offer multiple security protocols, the strongest encryption, and servers in 90+ countries.
You can use it for your Android, as well as multiple other devices and OSs, including iOS devices, Windows, Mac, and Linux.
It offers a no-logs policy, meaning none of your activity is tracked while you’re connected to ExpressVPN.
Moreover, it offers bandwidth and speeds with no limit on them.
You can pay for this VPN via debit or credit card, PayPal, and even Bitcoin.
And, if you decide that you do not like it, don’t worry. You will also get a 30-day money return policy, which means that you have a month to test it and get your money back if you don’t like it.
ExpressVPNProtect your Android using ExpressVPN’s top-level encryption and extra privacy features!
NordVPN includes an easy setup and simple-to-use app, a no-logging policy, and more.
It is one of the safest providers out there, which you can tell by looking at its features.
First of all, it offers a kill switch, which is a very useful tool that you don’t see everywhere. This feature can cut your connection instantly if the protection drops for some reason.
It also supports and protects P2P traffic, which is great news for all the torrent users out there.
However, it also has one unique feature that you probably won’t see a lot, even if you look through all 850+ other providers.
That is its double encryption, that actually encrypts your data twice. Even regular encryption is good enough to be considered great protection, but this provider doubles it.
Combine that with its 5000+ servers in 59 countries, and you have the maximum protection and anonymity that you can get.
Finally, there is also a money-back guarantee that lasts for 30 days, which will allow you to go back on the deal with no penalty if you do not like it.
NordVPNBoost up your Android security using this reliable data protection tool!
Next, we have IPVanish – another very popular choice with strong protection, and a very large server network.
In fact, it offers over 2,000+ servers in 75 countries. With numbers like that, you can bypass any restriction that you want.
Moreover, IPVanish has one unique feature that makes it even better than many VPNs on the market, which is the fact that it actually owns its server network.
Because of that, it can offer way faster speeds than the majority of other providers.
It might just be one of the fastest ones out there. This will make streaming and gaming super enjoyable, even on Android.
Now, as much as we would like to say that VPN is an absolutely perfect, flawless protection, the truth is that it has its flaws as well. Let us explore them now.
IPVanishGet the best protection for your Android with this high-quality VPN!
Issues with using a VPN on an Android device
One of the biggest drawbacks is that VPNs may use up more data. That may be a problem for you as an Android user if you’re on a limited plan.
On top of that, subpar VPNs will most likely slow down your connection.
Because of the fact that your data has to go through the tunneling process, even good VPNs may at times be slow, but there are some tools that are basically unusable.
Lastly, and possibly the most concerning issue is that many malicious apps pose as VPNs.
Studies like the one by researchers at the University of South Wales, CSIRO’s Data 61, and UC Berkley have found some interesting, although concerning results.
According to them, a lot of VPN apps from Google Play Store actually pose a big risk to your Android’s security. They have issues that include spyware, data leaks, adware, and malware in general.
Here are some concerning stats from the study:
- over 38% of the tested apps (283 in total) have malware attached to them
- Around 66% of the apps have had DNS leaks
- 84% were leaking IPv6
In order to demonstrate which are the most problematic apps, researchers have presented them by using a VirusTotal AV-Rank.
The following is the list of several VPNs that were found to have malware activity connected to them.
These are the problems that you might encounter while dealing with VPN apps for your Android.
As you can see, the situation is not great, and you must stay extra careful when it comes to choosing your provider.
Note: The VPNs which are reviewed above do not have these issues.
2. Encrypt your Android
As one of the best forms of protection when it comes to your Android device itself is the complete encryption.
If you encrypt your device, all of its data will become unreadable and scrambled. Nobody will get to your files without a proper PIN, password, or pattern.
Only after these methods of verification are inserted properly will your encryption be lifted.
The encryption was introduced on Android Gingerbread (2.3.x), and it is available in every version since.
Every version from Lollipop until the newest ones have encryption enabled from the moment you unwrap it. However, if you have the older model, you will have to turn it on by yourself, manually.
Encryption is useful because it will properly protect the data on your phone. Many companies use it as a measure of precaution, in order to prevent corporate espionage.
If someone tries to break into the phone, they won’t get the files they are after. At least not without some pretty modern methods that require special knowledge and equipment.
However, for an average user, this is more than enough to protect your sensitive files and data.
And since our Androids possess tons of such data, from messages, and photographs, to bank accounts and alike, it is important to prevent others from unlocking your phone.
The side effects of Android encryption
Of course, encryption has some possible negative sides as well, and there are things for you to consider before you make a decision on whether or not to use it.
There are not many such side effects, but those that do exist might impact the way you use your phone. Mainly, there are three things that you should keep in mind:
- Slower performance of your phone – Due to encryption and decrypting process, your phone won’t “fly” the way it used to. For most users, this won’t pose much of an issue, and depending on how good the phone is, and how many files you have, you might not even feel the difference. However, you should probably prepare for a slightly slower approach from now on.
- One-way encryption – If you don’t have it running by default, then the only way to reverse it is to reset the device completely. That means returning it to factory settings and starting from scratch. Your phone will be just like when you first bought it.
- You will have to unroot your phone during the process – this is worth mentioning because if you do not unroot your phone, you will probably run into some issues. You can re-root it back after enabling the encryption.
Encrypting your phone is a step in the right direction, and we definitely think that you should do it. The side effects that we have mentioned just now are not there to talk you out of doing it.
We just want you to know what you are getting yourself into before you change your mind.
How to encrypt your Android device
Before getting to the actual steps that you should follow for enabling encryption, here are a couple more things that you should know:
- The process might take an hour, or possibly longer
- You must have at least 80% of battery, otherwise Android won’t start the process
- Plug your device into a charger before starting, and keep it like that during the process
- Unroot your phone, if it is rooted
These instructions are something that you absolutely must obey, otherwise, you might lose your data during the process.
After the process starts, leave your device alone until everything is done. Now that we have got that out of the way, let us start with the actual steps.
- First, go to the Settings menu on your Android.
- From there, go to Security.
Depending on your model, the wording might not stay the same, but you should easily follow these instructions no matter what your phone calls these options are.
- If the encryption is not already running, you can start the process by selecting the option Encrypt phone.
- Tap encrypt the phone when you are ready to proceed.
You will see a progress bar now, and it will show how long the encryption will take. Usually, the process takes roughly an hour.
After the process is done, the phone will reboot, and you will have your phone back, fully operational.
If you have a password, pattern, or PIN, you should enter it now, and the device will finish the process.
If you do not have such a verification method, you should set one right now, otherwise, the entire process was for nothing.
How to set up a password/ pattern or PIN on Android
- Go to settings> Security> Screen lock.
- You will have to decide if you want your phone to ask for a PIN, pattern, or password after start-up. We recommend that you choose Yes, but the final decision is yours. Just remember that you are doing this for protection, not convenience.
After the device boots, not even a fingerprint reader will unlock your phone, if you have one.
This is important to remember – only your chosen verification method will work properly. You can use your fingerprint reader later after you have unlocked the phone properly after booting.
And that is it. Your device is now under encryption, which is the best way to protect it from possible thieves.
Remember, if you ever choose to disable it, only a total reset to factory settings can do the trick. If you choose that option, you will lose all of your data forever. So, make sure that you have it somewhere safe first.
Alternatively, if your device came with encryption, then you are stuck with it. Nothing can remove it, not even a factory reset.
3. De-Google your Android
Another method of increasing your privacy would be to cut Google out of your life. At least, as much as you can.
This might seem strange to you at first, but let’s think about it for a second.
Google knows everything about everything that you do online. This entire service focuses on gathering data about you and creating your personal profile.
In fact, it is probably quite accurate to say that Google knows you better than your friends and family combined.
It will store data about where you go, what you do, what you watch, and how much time you spend on each site.
Of course, Google won’t take your money.
However, you will still pay. You will pay with information concerning your identity, habits, behavior, preferences, and more.
That info is coming in from around the world, and Google successfully collects data on pretty much everyone who uses it.
And what does it do with it? Well, it sells it to advertisers, of course. That way, the company is making tons of money, and advertisers are increasing their sales by targeting the right people with the right product ads.
You might even say that Google is the biggest and most successful spying agency in history. And we are feeding it all of that data willingly.
Still, there are people who would want to stop doing so, and if you are one of them, then you might just want to keep reading.
We will now see what steps you can take to reduce the amount of information that Google is collecting from your Android so you’ll be one step closer to securing your data.
1. Spread the data
Thanks to all the services that Google provides us with, we are using them for all of our needs. It is simple and convenient, and it allows this company to just collect all of our data at once.
Now, if you worry about your privacy enough, you may be willing to sacrifice some of that convenience.
Giving Google up completely, as well as all of its services is difficult, we know. However, if you truly wish to hide something from this company, you might want to try out some other service. Preferably, one with base in Europe. EU has a lot of privacy laws that are a much better alternative. But more on that later.
2. Use a different search engine
Hiding from Google completely is almost impossible.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should make the company’s job easier and just hand over all that information. True, the Google search engine is the best one out there, and it has the best algorithms.
However, there are many anonymous search engines that will still provide the same results without tracking you while they are doing it. Some of the top anonymous search engines are:
3. Delete your cookies
However, that is only partially true.
4. Leave Gmail
This will probably be the hardest part for many users. Google’s email service is the best there is, and it is in a league of its own when it comes to quality and protection from other influences.
However, many would agree that the service is a bit too smart.
However, the policy also says that Google basically has a license to host. reproduce, use, store, modify, publish, publicly display, publicly perform, as well as distribute such content.
And that license will stay even if you leave the services that Google provides, which is not that good for an average user.
With all that in mind, do you still think that it is a good idea to store your confidential documents on Google Drive? We think not.
Still, there are many good alternatives out there. You can switch to them and know that your data will stay safe, or at least safer from Google’s influence and sticky fingers.
Many of them won’t screen your messages and will provide decent encryption. And yes, the transfer might prove difficult to get used to at first, but give it a week or two, and you will find your way around.
You can even take the process slowly. Start by forwarding the messages to the new inbox until you are ready for a complete separation.
By using Google Takeout, you can download your messages, and then open them offline by another email program.
This won’t take it away from Google, and others who use it and whom you might still be in contact with will have their copy of your future conversation.
However, you yourself will have a new, fresh start elsewhere and secure your Android data from now on.
5. Leave the cloud
This might prove to be just as difficult as leaving Gmail. Google’s services have been managing all of our needs for years now, and the majority of our online lives are tied closely to it.
Leaving it might pose a small problem, but it is relatively easy when you compare it to the task of keeping all the contacts, calendars, and the rest in sync and in check.
Thanks to its Cloud, everything is so conveniently put in place, and instantly available. When you go, you will have to do it all manually unless you find a replacement soon.
6. Install another OS on your Android (for expert users)
Ever since Google bought Android a decade ago, it had insight into pretty much anything that Android users do.
The first problem is that smartphones are leaking data all over the place. Many companies and organizations are perfectly capable of collecting that data even without trying too hard.
Google, however, wants all of it. Or at least as much as possible. When it first bought it, it was presenting it as an open-source alternative for iOS that Apple was offering.
In recent years, however, it started pulling app developers, makers of mobile handsets, and everyone else that had something to do with Android.
Now, securing a smartphone with Android OS on it is pretty much impossible thanks to all of this.
Those who know how to do it might actually completely wipe the Android system and install CyanogenMod instead. This is a completely functional OS that can pose as a substitute on your smartphone.
In this guide, we have covered quite a lot of ways to keep your Android secure.
From VPNs, what they can do, which are the best ones, and what are their possible issues, through de-Googling your life, and finally to phone encryption.
All of these methods serve one purpose, and that is to make your privacy private and to keep your data safe. If you came here with questions about these things, we hope that you now have all the answers that you needed. Protecting your phone is important, and you should take some of these steps as a precaution.
Remember, it is better to be prepared than to suffer the consequences of taking things too lightly. After all, it is your safety, and that is the most important thing of all.