Tips and tricks for protecting Android devices

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Android doesn't rival BlackBerry when it comes to security and enterprise support. But Android devices can still be reasonably secure. Here are some tips to help you protect your investment, privacy and data.

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Screen lock protection

Android supports screen lock protection that requires a numeric pin or pattern to be entered before the device can be used. Though Android devices currently don't encrypt the files and data, this can still be a great way to keep out casual snoopers or thieves. However, you must enter this pin or pattern every time you use your phone, or after each time the screen goes black and locks. If you find that too time consuming or annoying, consider using Unlock With WiFi. You can use it free with one Wi-Fi network.

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Application protection

If you think protecting your entire phone is overkill, you can protect individual apps (like Email, Calendar, Settings and Market) using third party app protectors. You might consider Application Protection. This lets you protect an unlimited number of individual apps with a password of numbers or a pattern like the Android system supports. It's a relatively simple app protector. But you can configure whether to always prompt for the password/pattern, unlock the individual app until the phone is locked again or unlock all protected apps until the phone is locked again.

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Another app protection app

Another option is Smart App Protector. This also supports number passwords (eight digits) or patterns. The free version lets you protect up to five apps in addition to the Market and Package Installer apps to protect against tampering. The free version also limits you from unlocking all protected apps when entering the password/pattern for one. But you don't have to re-enter the password/pattern for the same app in a given period of time, or until the phone is locked. You can configure the amount of incorrect password/pattern attempts before you can try again. You can customise the app lock screen background. You can even set a time frame to limit when protection is active.

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Data encryption

Unlike iOS and Blackberry, most Android devices on the market today don't support full storage encryption. In Android 3.0, an API was added to the platform to help developers use encryption. Thus in the near future we should see more encrypted Android devices. One developer, WhisperCore, already offers a free beta version of an app for Nexus S and Nexus One devices. However, this app helps to at least secure your sensitive work data: Exchange for Android. Although Android natively supports Microsoft Exchange for corporate access to email, calendar and contacts, this app adds many more features.

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Malware, theft and lost protection

Mobile devices are becoming more and more like computers, thus becoming more vulnerable to malware. Android is even more susceptible than other platforms due to the openness of the platform. Luckily, there are many antivirus and security apps for Android. Lookout is a security suite you might consider using to protect your gadget and the data on it. The free version provides malware protection, backup of your contacts and map/sound locating.

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Antivirus protection

AVG Antivirus. The free version provides malware and web browsing protection. It supports backup of contacts, text messages, bookmarks, calls and system settings. It offers all the basic anti-theft and locating features for no charge: map and audio locator, remote message, lock and wipe. SIM card protection is also provided. You'd receive an email alert if the SIM card is changed. Though you won't see the new phone number, you can see the serial number on new SIM card. Though you can't change the app settings via the web interface, you can locate the device on a map and use the other remote features.

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Password management

As with PCs, another security concern is how your passwords are stored by the browser. A determined snooper or thief could potentially recover passwords from your Android. But there are apps and browsers that can store and/or retrieve your passwords using encryption, so not even a hacker could get to them. LastPass offers a free service, although using their mobile apps requires the premium service. It works in conjunction with the other LastPass mobile and PC apps, so you'll have the same login credentials and form details stored for both PCs and mobile devices.

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Additional password options

If the LastPass browser doesn't cut it, consider installing Dolphin Browser HD and its LastPass add-in or Firefox Mobile and its LastPass add-in. Though the browsers are free, the add-ins still require the premium service of LastPass. You could install the free Firefox Mobile browser and use its Password Manager add-in to password protect and encrypt stored passwords. The first time you visit a website that needs a password stored by Firefox you'll be prompted for the master password, and then it will fill-in the stored password.

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Latest UK Updated 10:38am

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