Android security: the last tip you will need for 2020

Jack Wallen takes another opportunity to remind owners of Android devices to use those phones very carefully; otherwise, they could become victims of malware.

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Image: Google

The year 2020 is coming to an end. In fact, this is the last piece I’ll write for TechRepublic this year, and wow, it’s been a doozy year. Don’t worry, I have no intention of going to a train wreck these past 365 days. Instead, I want to offer one last reminder for the year. I occasionally bring out this reminder to serve as a warning to help Android users better understand a truth they need to understand.

This truth is all about the security of your mobile device. No matter how many times I remove this “old, but good,” Android users continue to ignore best practices, only to find themselves the victim of a malware or ransomware attack on their mobile devices.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

TO SEE: Identity Theft Protection Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Google’s Play Protect is part of the problem

Google’s Play Protect gives users a false sense of security. Play Protect is supposed to protect devices from installing software that contains malware. For the most part, it does a good job.

Read that sentence again. It should read “Play Protect does a great job of preventing malware from making its way onto your devices”. Unfortunately not.

In fact, Play Protect hasn’t prevented malicious software from being uploaded to the Play Store and then installed on devices around the world. Anyone who shrugs off security, assuming it is protected, lives under a false equivalence.

Say it all with me: “Google Play Protect is not guaranteed protection”. It’s that simple. The problem goes even deeper, because the anti-malware tools found on the Google Play Store aren’t much better. What should an Android user do? You certainly can’t always count on that Protected by Play Protect badge while installing apps (Figure A).

Figure A

Does Play Protect protect this device, or is it?

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Does Play Protect protect this device, or is it?

I’m not saying that Google shirks its duties in protecting users. Indeed, Google does a good job with the security task. However, Google faces near-impossible odds every single day. Just like with banks, hackers are always devising new ways to steal data. This puts companies like Google on the defensive, and being in such a position is never good. Reactive security cannot guarantee security. Because of this, no one’s device will ever be 100% safe unless it is turned off. However, the average man cannot work with phones turned off.

TO SEE: The biggest Android mistake of 2020 | Best Android feature in 2020 | 10 Android predictions for 2021 (TechRepublic)

How to be protected

What can you do? Follow this list of tips I’ve given you over the years:

  • Never install software from outside of Google Play Protect.

  • Only install the apps yourself must use.

  • Do not sideload applications. Period. Never.

  • Do not install applications without descriptions.

  • Don’t install apps with few reviews.

  • Before installing an app, check the developer (information available in the Contact Developer section). Look for them – if you can’t find any information about them, avoid the app.

  • Before installing an app, do a Google search to see if there are any known issues.

  • Only install applications from known entities (like Google, Amazon, Spotify, etc.).

  • If you are given the choice between buying an app or using a free app with ads, always choose the purchase option as ads are one of the most popular ways to inject malware onto a device.

  • Avoid apps with titles or descriptions in broken English. Apps on Google Play that contain malware have titles like (and these are legitimate apps that have been found malicious): Cream Trip, Crush Car, Desert Against, Find 5 Differences, Find Hidden, Iron It, Jump Jump, Money Destroyer, Rolling Scroll, Shoot ’em, Target shooting and Sway Man.

It might seem like a pretty long list of things to consider when installing apps on your Android device. Think about it this way: The more precautions you take, the less likely you are to face malicious software that steals your data or holds the ransom of your phone. While the list above isn’t a guarantee, it will go a long way towards improving the default security experience found on Android.

Also, if you approach mobile, and even desktop security, so keep in mind that it’s not a question of Self but when, you’ll be much more likely to use a healthy dose of caution.

Hopefully 2021 brings a lot of good news for everyone, but as far as the security of your Android device goes, don’t think that because 2020 is now in the rearview mirror you are safe. Without using much caution, you could end up a victim of malware.

Stay safe, so you don’t have to apologize.

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