How to Keep an Android Phone or Tablet Secure

Introduction

In this modern connected age more and more of our personal and professional lives are interwoven into our smart phones and tablets. Taking good measures to keep these devices secure should be of paramount importance.

This guide will walk you through the general steps and best practices in securing your Android Smartphone.
The android mascot holding a shield

1 Set Screen Lock

The first step in securing your device is to be certain your phone 'locks' when it turns off. This means other people won't be able to just pick up and use your phone; they will require a PIN, at least, that only you know, first.

Enable Screen Lock

  1. Open Settings.
    Android Settings.
  2. Select Security.
    Security
  3. Select Screen lock.
    Security with Screen lock highlighted.
  4. Select a type of Screen lock for your device.
    Choose screen lock with PIN highlighted.
    • Swipe

      • You will be required to swipe up on the screen to use the phone, rather than just being taken right to your Home screen and Apps when you push the power button.
        No security is provided by this option, it is simply a convenience feature, and not recommended from a security perspective.
    • Pattern

      • This allows you to add a pattern of dots you have to join together on screen to unlock your phone.
        This provides absolute minimal security. Patterns are incredibly easy to guess, either from looking over someone's shoulder or simply the smudge patterns left on the screen itself. This is not recommended from a security perspective.
    • PIN

      • You will have to type a series of numbers in before unlocking your phone.
        This is recommended for most people. It provides an actual code that is required, yet is easy enough for most people to remember. This guide will choose PIN as the option to continue.
    • Password

      • You will need to type a full password before being able to use your device.
        This provides the maximum amount of security, but adds a layer of complexity that most people dislike in their everyday lives. You are welcome to choose this option, but please keep in mind you will need to remember the password going forward, and use it every time you wish to unlock your phone.
  5. A brief introduction and description of PIN and secure start-up will be shown. Select Require PIN to start device.
    Secure start-up with Require PIN to start device highlighted.
  6. Enter a PIN that is easy for you to remember, hard for others to guess, and has 4 or more numbers in it. Then select Continue.
    Choose your PIN with PIN entry and Continue button highlighted.
  7. Confirm your PIN by entering it a second time, then select OK.
    Confirm your PIN with PIN entry and OK button highlighted.
  8. Your PIN is now setup!
    You will need to use your PIN every time you unlock or turn on your phone from now on.
    Keep your PIN to yourself! It is how you identify to your phone that you are 'you', and not someone else who picks up your phone.
  9. Many Android devices also have a fingerprint reader, usually built-into the power button. Consider setting up your fingerprint as an extra security option as well.

? Would you like to setup Fingerprint sign-in as well?

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. My Android device does not have a fingerprint reader

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In this modern connected age more and more of our personal and professional lives are interwoven into our smart phones and tablets. Taking good measures to keep these devices secure should be of paramount importance.

This guide will walk you through the general steps and best practices in securing your Android Smartphone.
The android mascot holding a shield

The first step in securing your device is to be certain your phone 'locks' when it turns off. This means other people won't be able to just pick up and use your phone; they will require a PIN, at least, that only you know, first.

Enable Screen Lock

  1. Open Settings.
    Android Settings.
  2. Select Security.
    Security
  3. Select Screen lock.
    Security with Screen lock highlighted.
  4. Select a type of Screen lock for your device.
    Choose screen lock with PIN highlighted.
    • Swipe

      • You will be required to swipe up on the screen to use the phone, rather than just being taken right to your Home screen and Apps when you push the power button.
        No security is provided by this option, it is simply a convenience feature, and not recommended from a security perspective.
    • Pattern

      • This allows you to add a pattern of dots you have to join together on screen to unlock your phone.
        This provides absolute minimal security. Patterns are incredibly easy to guess, either from looking over someone's shoulder or simply the smudge patterns left on the screen itself. This is not recommended from a security perspective.
    • PIN

      • You will have to type a series of numbers in before unlocking your phone.
        This is recommended for most people. It provides an actual code that is required, yet is easy enough for most people to remember. This guide will choose PIN as the option to continue.
    • Password

      • You will need to type a full password before being able to use your device.
        This provides the maximum amount of security, but adds a layer of complexity that most people dislike in their everyday lives. You are welcome to choose this option, but please keep in mind you will need to remember the password going forward, and use it every time you wish to unlock your phone.
  5. A brief introduction and description of PIN and secure start-up will be shown. Select Require PIN to start device.
    Secure start-up with Require PIN to start device highlighted.
  6. Enter a PIN that is easy for you to remember, hard for others to guess, and has 4 or more numbers in it. Then select Continue.
    Choose your PIN with PIN entry and Continue button highlighted.
  7. Confirm your PIN by entering it a second time, then select OK.
    Confirm your PIN with PIN entry and OK button highlighted.
  8. Your PIN is now setup!
    You will need to use your PIN every time you unlock or turn on your phone from now on.
    Keep your PIN to yourself! It is how you identify to your phone that you are 'you', and not someone else who picks up your phone.
  9. Many Android devices also have a fingerprint reader, usually built-into the power button. Consider setting up your fingerprint as an extra security option as well.
  1. Open Settings.
    Android Settings.
  2. Select Security.
    Security
  3. Select Fingerprint.
    Security with Fingerprint highlighted.
  4. A short introduction will display, showing you exactly where the fingerprint sensor is on your phone. When you are sure you know where the sensor is, select Next.
    Find the sensor with Next highlighted.
  5. Hold your phone normally, then press the fingerprint sensor with the finger that feels most comfortable to you. When your phone vibrates, release the sensor. On the screen, you will be shown this prompt, and the fingerprint symbol in the center will fill in each time. You'll be asked to touch the sensor multiple times, to better get an accurate 'model' of your fingerprint.
    Let's start fingerprint scan prompt.
  6. Once your phone has a good model of your fingerprint, it will be added and the screen will let you know. Select Done.
    Fingerprint added with Done highlighted.

Leaving Unknown sources enabled is a security risk because it allows Apps to be installed and run that are not from the Google Play store. In many cases this is harmless but in some cases the apps can be poorly written, have lax security or even be malicious.

To disable Unknown sources:

  1. Open Settings.
    Android Settings.
  2. Select Security.
    Security
  3. Set the toggle switch for Unknown sources to Off.
    Security with Unknown sources toggle switch off and highlighted.

Although useful, lock screen notifications are a privacy risk.

To disable lock screen notifications:

  1. Open Settings.
    Android Settings.
  2. Select Notifications.
    Notifications.
  3. Select the Gear in the top-right corner.
    Notifications with gear highlighted.
  4. Select On the lock screen.
    Configure Notifications with On the lock screen highlighted.
  5. From the menu that opens, select Hide sensitive notification content. This way, your personal information is protected, but you can still access trivial things, such as music playback controls.
    Configuration menu with Hide sensitive notification content highlighted.

And lastly, exercise caution when using your phone.

Be cautious of:

  • What websites you visit.
  • What you tap on while on websites.
  • Links and attachments in emails.
  • Granting 3rd party apps permissions.
  • Who you let use your phone.
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