The Truth About Android Security (Part 1)

12/10/2012 3:45:28 PM

Are your apps spying on you? Does Google mine your data? Are viruses and malware really a problem? We examine whether your Android device should be a serious cause for concern...

Your Android phone or tablet is a mini it makes calls, it lets you send email browse the web, write articles and p movies. Whatever you can do on a desktop it is likely that you will be able to do it on An But there is something else to think about data which you place on your phone is likely value to someone else. Details of your con' email addresses, passwords and social MS are just a small snapshot of the items which would love to have. And with payment systems set to become standard, there Is money at stake too.


For this reason security should be rather high on the agenda. You want a situation where, should your Android device be stolen, the Information is locked down and can’t be access. You want to be able to pinpoint exactly where your phone is If It is stolen and you want to make regular backups so that, if the device dies on you, the data doesn’t go with it. You then want to ensure those backups are secure.

Malware: myth or menace?

There are other ways your device can be compromised. It can be hit by a virus, malware or spyware. There are also worries that the cloud services you trust with your data can be hit by hackers. Reports In the newspapers suggest your apps are spying on you, that Google is evil and is accessing your data and that payment systems such as Near Field Communication are far from secure. This computer in your pocket suddenly seems like a dangerous proposition.

“The Android platform Is consistently cited as having the largest slice of the smartphone market pie, so it’s no surprise that It’s become a favourite target for malware authors,” says Raj Samani, CTO of security experts McAfee. “Almost all new mobile malware detected in the second quarter of 2012 by McAfee Labs was directed at the Android platform, comprising of SMS-sending malware, mobile botnets, spyware and destructive Trojans.”

Indeed, the number of malware samples detected rose by 1.5 million from the first three months of 2012 to the second quarter. A number of new threats also appeared including so called ‘drive by downloads’, the use of Twitter for control of mobile botnets, and the appearance of mobile ‘ransomware’. The number of malware samples being detected is 100,000 a day.

It seems as though Android phones are actually more at risk of malware than Apple’s iOS. This is due to the Android system’s open nature. It is easier to create an app for Android and there is no verification system before that app reaches the hands of users. Where Apple vets each app ahead of its appearance on the App Store, there is no such process for Android and so rogue apps can sneak through.

Of the new threats to be worried about, Ransomware is one of the most devastating. Popular among a new breed of cyber criminals, damage can range from a loss of photos and personal files to data encryption and demands for money from large enterprises.

Botnets are also a viable threat, infecting devices with malicious software and using it to generate spam, send viruses or cause web servers to fall.

Social network Twitter is being used for mobile botnet command and control. As such, the attacker can tweet commands with relative anonymity and all infected devices will follow them.

“Users are Increasingly relying on their smartphones for day to day activities,” adds Samani. “In turn, the sheer amount of sensitive data being stored on unprotected devices presents a feast for hungry cyber criminals waiting to steal your personal data.”

Do you need antivirus?

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given that he heads up a company which makes antivirus packages, Samani advises having the necessary security installed on your Android smartphone will prevent that information from falling into or being snatched by the wrong hands. There are certainly lots of antivirus apps for Android which suggests there is an issue (contrast that with iOS, for example). But just how necessary is it?

“Mobile security software can not only prevent against viruses, but can provide features such as call and SMS filtering, protection against malicious apps, and remote device tracking, lock and wipe should your phone get lost or stolen,” says Samani. “Cyber criminals are underhand and will look for any way to access the data on a device.”

The risk of infection, however, can be minimised with both a combination of taking care and not opening up your device to potential problems. Although Jonathan

Krause, the founder of Forensic Control, pointed out to us that the Android operating system isn’t as tightly locked down as it is on IOS or Blackberry phones, those who root their Android devices are at most risk. “Not only are you likely to have voided your warranty, you’ve also made the device more vulnerable to malicious software," he says. “In this situation anti-malware software may help.”

Crucially, however, he says that most users need not be too concerned. “There are steps you can take to minimise the risks,” he adds. “If you’re the type of person to use less well-known apps, you simply need to check other people’s reviews before you install on your device. Essentially, though, if you’re a regular Android user who has no interest in ‘getting under the skin' of their device and if you install mainstream apps then you’ve little to worry about. Otherwise, I would consider getting some decent anti-malware software installed.”

How to find your lost device

Losing your phone or having it stolen is a pain. All your vital data, emails, images and contact details are at risk. With the Lookout app you can discover exactly where your phone is and use it to track down your device...

1.    Set up Lookout

set up Lookout

After downloading Lookout from Google Play and installing, you will be taken through a series of steps to set up your security, backup and Missing Device facilities. If you go Premium, you will get remote lock and wipe facilities.

2.    Go to

2. Go to

If your phone goes missing, go to on your PC or Mac. Clicking Locate under the Missing Device tab pinpoints your phone using Google Maps, narrowing down until it finds the street.

3.    Send a scream

3. Send a scream

If you believe you have lost your phone, send a scream to play a loud siren on your handset and make the J screen flash. 1 It would also I startle any I thief who m may have your phone.

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