Android Settings to Increase Your Mobile Security

By   Information Security Buzz Editorial Staff
Chief Editor , Information Security Buzz | Jul 19, 2015 07:00 pm PST

Your smartphone contains information about everything in your personal and professional life. This means that protecting the information that may be on your phone is paramount, especially in this day and age when information is so much more valuable than it was even just a few years ago. Protecting your smartphone has gone beyond having a simple pin, with features like gesture unlocking, face detection and fingerprint scanning. Here are just a few ways security has evolved with the latest version of Android:

Smart Locks

All touchscreen smartphones like the Galaxy S 6 Edge have several forms of screen locks that engage if the screen is off for a set amount of time. This ensures that if someone who isn’t you picks up your phone, he or she doesn’t have full access to your data. Android phones come with three basic locks as well as a few others that offer a bit more functionality. The three basic locks are a password, a PIN or a gesture pattern. These are the quickest ways to access your phone; however, they can be easily guessed if the passwords themselves aren’t strong.

With the roll out of Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google now provides the ability to use smart locks. These smart locks use context clues to know when to unlock quickly. These context clues include trusted faces, places and devices. Trusted faces uses the front-facing camera to scan your face and then learns that you are the device owner so it will unlock automatically. Trusted places uses GPS coordinates to make a bubble of a certain area where you feel comfortable leaving your phone unlocked for an extended period of time, such as your home or other frequented spot. Trusted devices uses Bluetooth or NFC to recognize devices that you frequently use, like a smartwatch or Bluetooth headphones. As long as these devices are in range, the smart lock keeps the phone more easily accessible. But, once its out of range, the lock reengages.

Notifications and Alerts

Lollipop also comes with new settings that secure what notifications and alerts others can see. If you have your notification settings turned on, you can get alerts from apps, such as game alerts, email notifications, chats or texts, without unlocking your phone.

Because of this, Google has added a new feature that gives you a more granular approach to what comes up. For instance, you can change the permissions that apps have to show up on the lock screen by labeling them as “sensitive content.” For example, if you have a work email associated with your phone, you can set your email as sensitive content so you no longer get the text popping up on your screen, while still allowing text messages or chats to come through.

Play Store Improvements

Google has also improved the security on its applications. By default, phones are only allowed to download and install apps from Google’s Play Store; however, you can change your security menu to add apps from other sources. Also, when downloading a new app, apps are required to show what sort of access levels they have permission to use. For instance, if a simple flashlight application wants to have high-level access to your phone’s inner workings, you can use the permission information to see that the app doesn’t need to have access to your incoming calls and text messages, so you can avoid a potentially harmful download.