As with most security threats, mobile security has become an issue in general conversation only once massive breaches of security have happened and once multiple people have fallen prey to hackers, data ransoming, and identity thefts. Most average users today would not consider their mobile security as important as the cybersecurity they would have on their personal computer or their work computer, even though the same personal data we have there we also carry everywhere with us on our phone. And with the ever-growing trend of NFC payment and MITM free WiFi, having your phone or other mobile devices secured has become even more important than protecting your home system.
While mobile devices that use the Android operating system, also called ‘’android phones’’, are far from being the least safe, they do suffer from the same problem as Apple’s iOS that they are very common, and the rule of large numbers indicates that with such high numbers, there must be malicious people trying to hack these systems.
For an average user, it is important to make a balance between the physical safety of the phone, a.k.a. not being stolen, and the security of the software inside the phone. It would be best to keep our phone connected but to use a set of premium apps that will keep our phone out of reach for most if not all malicious entities, or malicious apps, that lurk on the World Wide Web.
Long story short, if you want to keep your phone safe in 2018, you should have the Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus, the Avast Mobile Security, and the Le VPN mobile app installed to cover all of your bases and make sure that the #nomakeup #justwokeup selfies stay safely on your phone, and not someone else’s database.
What is the Android Operating System?
While most people would recognize Android and Android apps as having something to do with Google, there is a good reason why it is not a proprietary piece of software as is the case with Apple and their iPhone operating system. Android is an operating system designed for touchscreen mobile devices and is based on the open sourced Linux kernel that has been modified and developed by Google in the ancient history of 2008. The first mobile device ever to run this system was the HTC Dream that had both a physical qwerty keyboard and a touchscreen.
As both data connectivity, WiFi availability, and the amount of data you were able to keep on your phone at the time was negligible compared to today, the native security features of both Android and its competitors was virtually non-existent.
As today you will need to have a Google account to use your Android phone properly, and will probably be online all day every day as far your device is concerned, you will need some apps to guard your banking details, private conversations, and in many cases hundreds upon hundreds of photos that you might not want to share with the community at large.
What are the Security Risks for Your Android Device?
Not to go all Morpheus, but there are enough red pills in this hole to develop an addiction. From friends and family who are sending you emails and messages from infected devices, to office WiFi being hacked by a zealous security employee, and going all the way up to the various institutions funded by the taxpayers of the land of the free and the home of the brave.
While a chance that you will be successfully hacked by someone targeting you, in particular, is very low, as even native defenses for Android phones are beyond the ability of most hackers, the biggest danger is from clicking something that you thought was safe, and it wasn’t. Most hackers and identity thieves today will cast wide nets over social media and wait for random people to bite the bait, sifting through the collected data later and using your information for all kinds of malicious purposes.
For instance, it is calculated that around 20% of all Facebook links are some sort of malware, be it viruses or spyware.
How can Apps Help?
Even though phone applications have developed much further than their humble beginnings and they are now full-fledged computer programs, they are still addressed as applications or apps. Same as on your PC or laptop, apps are used as anti-virus, anti-spyware, and VPN software that is made to protect your device from any program that is made to damage your device or to send data to somewhere without your consent.
There are hundreds of apps you can choose from at the app store, and while free apps are all well and good when it comes to mobile games and similar pastimes, you will want to go premium when it comes to your security. Free security apps are not troublesome on mobile devices as they are on your PC, as it would be quite rare to find a virus app due to the heavy screening done by Google for apps that require access to your system. What is the problem with free security apps is that they usually don’t work. There is a ton of new mobile malware produced for Android every day, and it is very hard to finance these regular upgrades with mobile ads usually found in free antivirus apps.
What can be confusing for some users is that some apps might be free to download from Google Play, but they are connected with a premium service. One of these is the Le VPN app, which comes free with your Le VPN membership. You will need to input the same username and password that you use on your PC or Laptop, even though you will be able to download the app regardless. It is the similar case with several of the top premium services.
What Type of Apps are there?
Mobile security apps are divided into two broad categories, one protecting the device itself from theft and meddling, and the other defending the data inside the device from malicious software found online. Although a regular user would only need the core protection apps, if you are spending more time on your device due to your business, or your hobby, you might want to investigate into more apps that will fit your specific needs.
While physical security apps are nice to have, they are generally far less important today when the only way to access your phone is via fingerprint or face recognition, or a multi-character password that takes a lot of time to crack if whoever stole it doesn’t have some military-grade hardware.
Software security is of crucial importance, as even a small breach can leave most of your personal data compromised. This issue might have mild side effects such as your social media accounts being co-opted to spread spyware, or can have devastating life-changing effects.
Physical Security Apps
All newer Android phones come with several native security features that used to be available only on other platforms. One of these features is the ‘’Find My Phone’’ app that is already installed in your phone.
This might be a good time to apologize to the strange guy with a tinfoil hat that slept in the bus who said that the corporations will make us wear microchips with which they would know exactly where we are, as that is exactly what Alphabet Inc. (Google) is doing with Android phones and Apple is doing with iOS phones. If you are not using a VPN app on your phone, you will be able to pinpoint the location of the device you carry everywhere with you to a precision of up to six feet.
It is nice from Google to give us an option to find our phone or to lock and erase it if needed, but it might be advisable to use a VPN still, and not give a trillion dollar corporation your exact location and movement patterns. The VPN will still allow you to lock and erase your phone, but it will change the map location to the one of the VPN servers.
Meta-Data Protection Apps
Some malicious software doesn’t actually send your data, but the traces of the websites you visit and apps that you use, as well as phone numbers that you dial. This information is used for different purposes by different entities, but the goal is usually to predetermine your actions and decisions.
If this feels dehumanizing, it is because it most definitely is. Usually, corporations will use such software to tailor ads just for you or to find out when you would be most susceptible to which commercials. For instance, if you order food over your phone every day at the same time, spyware might realize this and send you ads for a specific company an hour in advance.
The fact that individual hackers and identity thieves have little use for this data doesn’t diminish the fact that this practice is slightly disrespectful and utterly creepy.
Data Protection Apps
This is the main focus of cybersecurity for mobile devices. From phone VPN to anti-spyware programs, to anti-virus software that is as strong as it would be on any desktop, there was a lot of development in the field of mobile software security in the last decade.
Anti-virus software is widely recognized all the way back from the beginning of the era of personal computers, and they have become even stronger and more efficient now. The effect of anti-virus software is so big that most hackers don’t even make traditional virus software anymore.
Today we are seeing a surge in spyware which is why more and more anti-spyware software is being made, and why an ever increasing number of people are only accessing the internet over a secure VPN connection. This is truly cross-platform, regardless if you are using VPN for iPad, Android tablets, or any mobile phone.
Best Mobile Security App for Your Device in 2018:
While most regular readers of Android Authority, the go-to blog for Android tips, will know about the plethora of products that can be used to better our Android phones, including firmware updates that would improve the native security of the device. Although the mobile security apps mentioned here are tested on Android phones, all three of the main options are available on multiple platforms. It is more than plausible that you will be able to use your premium Windows antivirus on your mobile device as well.
Although the elongated list of best Android antivirus apps would require its own dedicated research, most products would be familiar to most users, as they haven’t changed in many years now. From Norton antivirus, AVG antivirus, and Kaspersky, which are all household names by now, to BitDefender antivirus, and CM Security, and Lookout security, which are relatively new contenders on the mobile cybersecurity market, there is truly a wide market for premium antivirus and anti-spyware software.
When it comes to VPNs, the market is still fresh, thus making the best Android VPN app also the best iOS VPN app, which goes to Le VPN due to several protocol features native to the app, and a lot of features that are drawn from the practices of the company itself, which are also available for other devices.
1. Antivirus: Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus
The first time most people heard about Kaspersky was two decades ago when they entered the stage with their antivirus program for Windows ’98. It would be hard for a young person to believe this now, but at some point, a software from Moscow was synonymous with being safe on the internet.
The reason why their mobile antivirus software is the best now is that it covers all the bases and provides very good protection without sacrificing a lot of the processing power needed by the device. It excels in versatility, security, and reliability, making it the best antivirus protection option, as well as one of the best antivirus apps currently available for Android devices.
2. Anti-Spyware: Avast Mobile Security
While Avast Mobile Security is generally also an anti-virus software, it has a much weaker system in this regard and wouldn’t find most dormant Android malware, or even bloatware, stored in your phone. Where Avast excels is with finding spyware, or any other malicious software that is directly connecting to the internet, even when no app is currently active.
This makes Avast the best spyware protection software on the market today. Additionally, the fact that it works seamlessly with Kaspersky means that you can have both, without a single issue. Just make sure to deactivate Avast when you are not sweeping your device, as it might use a bit more resources than you are willing to give.
3. Connection Security: Le VPN for Android
As previously mentioned, the Le VPN app is the preferred choice regardless if you are using iOS or Android. While not being the only option, there are several features that made this app the best android app when it comes to VPN connections.
The first one it that it is a premium app that comes free with the service you would use on your PC or laptop. This means that you can have all of your devices connected on a single license, which makes it quite affordable.
The second aspect is the kill switch, which is an essential part of any mobile VPN app, and which is sadly lacking from many of the contenders. A kill switch will disable your connection to the internet if you are unable to connect to the VPN, providing an instant app lock. This will remove any risk of leaving your device unprotected because you have exited the network or just switched to WiFi. Generally, this is the best Android security app feature to look for in a VPN app.
Finally, because of the number of servers available with Le VPN, you can use your connection to pair with the closest one, giving you almost the speeds you would have by connecting directly to the IP address provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Access to Your Google Account
Sadly, there is no way to properly use your Android phone without registering a Google account, which can be problematic for multiple reasons, only some of which we have mentioned before. While it may sound childish, you may want to stay anonymous with your phone. To do this, just register a pseudonym g-mail account and log from there.
If you need to receive your email on your phone, make your regular address forward the mail to your phone account, that way you would have the same information in both places, all protected.
It is very hard not to use scare-tactics when describing modern cybersecurity, as most issues we are seeing today are things described in novels about a dystopian future for humanity. Thankfully, the problems are much more mundane than the authors of those past pieces would make us think, as the information constantly collected by ‘’the big brother” is mostly used to sell us hair products and food, and not to control our behavior.
Mobile security is no different as any other type of cybersecurity, meaning that if you practice just a little bit of caution and forward thinking, you can be perfectly safe to browse the internet as much as you want.
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