How to protect Android smartphone from intrusions, malware, viruses and spy or malicious apps. Until a few years ago Android was believed to be a very secure system, to the point of not needing any antivirus. This statement is largely true today, but does not take into account the habits of ordinary users: more and more often they make mistakes or visit sites that can hide very dangerous threats even for a common Android smartphone.
The consequences of an infection on Android are very obvious: phone slowdowns, faster exhaustion of battery power, apps or windows open for no reason, apps that we had not installed appear and (in the worst cases) real theft occurs of data and passwords saved, which can be used to compromise our current account or our personal data on websites. Fortunately it is enough to follow a few simple steps to make Android protected from malware, viruses, intrusions and spy or harmful apps, and most of the suggestions are related to the common sense of each of us.
Activate the integrated antivirus in Google Play
If you think you have to install a third-party antivirus, you’ll be pleased to know that Google Play integrates its antivirus, called Play Protect: it scans every new app that we install on the phone and scans the apps already present in system, looking for threats.
To make sure that this protection is always active, we open the Google Play Store, let’s tap at the top left on the icon with the three horizontal lines then select Play Protect from the sidebar. The window will show us any threats discovered during some scans; to verify the correct activation of this antivirus, we click on the gear in the upper right corner and activate both the items Search security threats and Improve detection of malicious apps.
Avoid apps outside the Play Store
Many users search and install APKs, which are the apps available outside the Play Store and can be installed on any Android smartphone. Unfortunately, no form of Google control is practiced on these apps, so they could very well contain viruses.
To prevent APK apps from being installed in the system, simply go to Settings -> Security and disable the item Unknown sources; on modern Android (from 8.0 onwards), every single app can manage the APK installation, so we’ll have to go to the Install unknown apps menu and make sure that no apps are allowed to install APK in the system.
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Use a safe and secure browser
Android phones often come with a browser produced by the phone manufacturer: it is very fast and practical, but it may not have all the best security tools offered by browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
To surf in complete security, therefore, we avoid any browser that we do not know (or of dubious origins) and we only use Google Chrome for Android or Mozilla Firefox for Android.
Furthermore the opening of Internet sites within other apps can be kept safe by updating the app called Android System WebView, which contains all the security patches released by Google for browsing.
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Update all apps
To prevent infections and data theft by malicious parties, it is advisable to always update all the apps in the system, possibly in a completely automatic manner. Basically we can update all the apps automatically via Wi-Fi, opening the Google Play Store on the phone, expanding the sidebar, bringing us to Settings and finally to Automatic Update app.
From this menu we can choose the item Only via Wi-Fi; selecting instead on any network, the Play Store will update the apps also via LTE or 3G, exploiting the data offer available to us (we recommend activating this item only if we have at least 5 GB included in the offer).
Avoid links received in chat or on social media
A common way to spread malware to Android is to use chat messages on WhatsApp, Facebook or other similar apps, which can come from a friend with a PC or an already infected mobile phone.
As already recommended many times, we must never open unknown links received via email or chat and, if you are very curious, first check if a site is dangerous with the methods already seen and then contact your friend by phone call, asking light on the strange link received (you will be surprised how many times not even your friend was aware of the threat!).
Avoid downloading movies and music from dubious Internet sites
Downloading music, videos from illegal sites or ringtones or wallpapers from disreputable sites can be very dangerous because they are things that are much sought after behind which you can hide malware. To be safe, avoid downloading anything using your internet browser and always use apps controlled by Google Play.
Install an additional antivirus
If we often catch threats on our Android smartphone or we are aware of being inexperienced users (despite all the precautions we have indicated to follow), perhaps it is time to “raise the shields” and focus on a more powerful antivirus than the integrated one in Google Play Store (which we can leave active without problems).
The best free antivirus for Android that we can install on our Android smartphone are:
- Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus
- Avira Antivirus Security
- Avast Antivirus
- AVG Antivirus
- Eset Mobile Security
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free
We install one of the following antiviruses, let’s keep it updated automatically and perform periodic scans of the system in search of possible threats. Unfortunately the antiviruses are placed in memory and occupy a part of the smartphone’s resources: if you notice too many slowdowns (maybe because your smartphone is old or has less than 3 GB of RAM), better uninstall everything and focus only on the antivirus integrated in the Play Store.
Keep the system up to date
One of the surely more effective tricks to protect Android from malware is to always keep the operating system updated: with each update, any bugs or security flaws are corrected and this leaves much less margin for any malware to enter the system.
In almost every smartphone you can check for updates by going to Settings > About phone and tapping on System update.
On modern Android phones (8.0 or later), the security patch release system is managed separately from the total update: in this way, all manufacturers can keep old phones safe without necessarily updating them every few minutes months. We can perform security checks by tapping on the Settings -> Security Status menu (if available).