Be smart, be safe - secure your Android phone

Your phone is not just a phone. In the past ten years or so, we've moved past our phones just being a way to talk and text other people, and today even the cheapest smartphone is more like a small computer than whatever you were using in 2005. Security matters now more than ever.

You probably have all sorts of personal information stored on your phone. Your social accounts have lists of people you associate with (and maybe even more details about them) as well as the things you talk about in an easy to read timeline. Your banking or credit card apps, apps for places like Amazon or eBay, as well as any fancy digital wallet you might be using can give someone else an easy way to spend a lot of your money. Take a lot of pictures? Those kinds of pictures? Want some random creepy dude looking at them?

Take a lot of pictures? Those kinds of pictures? Want some random creepy dude looking at them?

And your email, well, think about this — if someone else gets access to your email, in a very short time that can have access to almost everything else. A person with your phone can just click all the "reset my password" links, then check your mail to find a way to make a new one.

So, yeah. Having someone else rifling through your digital "stuff" is really not a good idea. And we haven't even mentioned how unfair it is to the other people in your contacts app who have their personal information harvested because you let someone else look.

Picture password

The good news is that locking your phone to try and prevent any of this sort of thing is easy. In fact, on most phones you're prompted to lock everything up with one method or another during the set up process. And having a secure lock screen isn't the hassle it used to be. Short PIN codes combined with self-destruct features (where a number of wrong guesses makes everything get wiped), or pattern/picture locks and of course fingerprint scanners make unlocking your phone pretty trivial. Some phones even have fancy methods to keep things unlocked when your phone is in your hands or on your person. None of these methods are foolproof, but chances are if someone steals your phone and finds it locked, they are just going to sell it to someone who can wipe it clean and resell it instead of spending time looking at your stuff and spending your money.

If you've ever had to deal with any of your credit cards or online banking accounts being hacked (thanks Target, and Home Depot, and Sony) you know what sort of hassle it all is. And we've all seen what sort of disaster happens when someone gets access to private things like sexy pictures or SMS threads. It's not pretty.

Be smart and be safe — secure your smartphone.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Mine's locked with my fingerprint. Had to when I downloaded Android Pay. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't store anything valuable on my phone. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • You're at least signed into your email or have contacts
  • Yea, email, contacts, pictures, passwords to important financial websites aren't important. If someone got a hold of that kind of info they would never be able to do anything nefarious with it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • At the very least, wouldn't a screen lock act as a minor deterrent to someone wanting to snatch your phone? For convenience you could use smartlock or something. For example, if my phone is connected to my watch (Pebble), my keys (Moto powerpack micro), my car (bluetooth headunit) or if I'm in my room (location or Bluetooth to my Ilumi) then I don't need the code. It works so well I actually need to put in the code like once a week. Though I guess not everybody is so kitted out. on a similar note, if bluetooth (radio waves) cause cancer I'm so gonna die lol Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • From your perspective but, objectively, you can't help but store valuable information on your phone.
  • Sophos has a great app for keeping your phone safe. It will guide you through everything you need to secure your phone. And it's free! This isn't a scam. Its legit, it works and it's actually free. I've been using it since 2012. I can't post links here so just look up "Sophos Mobile Security" in Play store to install.
  • Sophos from my understanding is great antivirus for osx and linux too. It seems to scan for Windows malware, but that makes sense. Keeps windows systems on your network safe from viruses on other systems. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Creepy dudes"... How about crazy stalker type women..... Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Keep dreaming. ;-)
  • Hopefully people also realize that you can remotely wipe your phone from your Google Play account on your computer browser if you ever need to. I had to do it once when I lost my phone and I was glad that option was available.
  • You have to have Device Manager installed though. Not many people may know that. Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • No you don't. You'll be able to find any of your devices that has Google Play Services installed. Device Manager lets you view all your devices to remote wipe them, but isn't necessary if you use the website
  • You have to authorize Device Manager on your phone, though, before you can do a remote wipe. Posted via Moto Turbo
  • Buy the PRIV, it does more than what the user can do for security. BlackBerry goes far beyond any other Android OEM when it comes to security, period. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Very true. That is a plus. I'm glad nexus has encryption and with a password it helps even more. Posted via the Android Central App
  • At least that's what BlackBerry says. I wish they were more open about how they hardened things, but that won't happen.
  • I'm not convinced of this. Based on everything I've read, I'd be willing to bet that the Priv is just as vulnerable as any other standard smartphone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If someone was going to crack the Privs security, it would have been global front page news by now.
    The media won't sit on a bash BBRY story, they'll jump on it. There have been a few minor claims to have beaten BBRY's android security but if it were that true and that big, the media would have gobbled it up. What we need is a Google system that DOESN'T allow access to device contacts for apps that have no need to it. (Just to name one)
    What would make me feel better is being able have Googles services monitored by Dtek. Posted via Priv
    STV100-3 on Rogers
  • What, system level encryption isn't enough? Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • Maybe I DO want random creepy dudes looking at my photos. You don't know my life. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If that works for you. Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Can I look at your photos, then? =) Google Nexus 6P
  • I like Google's two step authentication process. Basically, after you login with your password as usual, it'll send you code for verification to your registered and verified phone number. There is more safety here. Do you see any other email service that uses this feature?
  • Yes, my Windows Phone and "MSN" account work that way.
    And since both my accounts are signed into my phone, 2 step becomes worthless, as the codes are sent as SMS, and or email, to my phone.
    If I "lose" my phone, whoever has it has access to my accounts if the phone isn't locked.
  • I see, thanks for enlightening me.
  • I've got an app on my Pebble Time that you can use for 2 step verification codes. Doesn't even need to be connected to my phone to work. Since I only ever take it off when I shower (I'm one of those guys who wears a watch to bed) nobody is going to be able to get access even if they have my phone. Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • When I signed up for two step it asked for an alternate number for that specific reason. Posted from a Note 8, 4.4 PacMan
  • I wish Marshmallow had a Picture Password feature like BlackBerry 10 does. It's a lot more fun than even a fingerprint unlocking. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It doesn't? I have it, I'm using HTC's lock screen, but I find it hard to believe stock doesn't have it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Picture password is safer than pattern lock but it's not better than fingerprint unlock. Google Nexus 6P
  • I wish I could get rid of the pattern trail when I unlock my Nexus 6P when it's sitting on a table (useful for quickly glancing at the time or checking notifications). Posted via the Android Central App
  • .....never mind - I completely missed the option right below where you set the lock type under Settings - Security. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nexus imprint is an awesome feature makes securing the phone a no brainer really Posted via the Android Central App
  • You know i would consider using a password if i didn't have to hit enter to unlock. For some reason it bothers me. I feel like once the correct password is in it should just unlock. (i know 1st world problems), also I do have Android device manager. So if some terrible person steals my nexus 6 can't i just lock or erase my data? Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can do that if you have access to another device or computer - but by the time you get to one after your phone goes missing, damage could already be done. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have found several articles (google "copying fingerprints") that claim that it is easy to lift fingerprints (e.g., from the fingerprint-scanner itself) and copy them to another surface that will allow you to fool the fingerprint-scanner. Does anyone have any experience with this? How hard is it to lift-copy-fool the fingerprint-scanner on the Nexus 6P?
  • What kind of phone is that, in the first picture? Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's the Nexbit Robin Posted via the Android Central App
  • Haha... Nice sayin... I like that ~Android Central App
  • Love my Priv. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I get that smartphone security is necessary, but it somewhat annoys me. For example, I hate no longer being able to launch my Music app from the lock screen while working out. I secure my phone, but I would like to not do so at times without my credit cards being auto-removed from Android Pay. There's also something I dislike about the self-destruct feature. Hypothetically speaking, I guess I don't want my phone being wiped if my boyfriend or prankster brother attempt to snoop. An option to allow a trusted person access in case of an emergency would be great, as well (maybe that person could answer questions only he or she would know the answers). I've needed to access a friend's phonebook to call her family during Spring Break, and not being able to was quite the hassle.