Android is the most popular operating system to be included with commercially available phones. With its huge user base, malware attacks are also inevitable. Android malware has surfaced on media outlets before, and most users depend on the built-in security measures that are integrated into the operating system.
The recent increase in malware attacks worldwide has led users to believe they need to install third-party antivirus programs on their phones, as they can’t be sure about the reliability of built-in android security. But the truth is that most media outlets exaggerate the severity of android malware attacks.
However, this doesn’t imply that android malware doesn’t exist. In case malware gets into your smartphone, you’ll be at great risk of leaked financial data or personal files. The main question that arises is can you trust your data to built-in android security, and if not, when will built-in android security be reliable?
First, let’s take a look at some of the main security measures that Android has integrated into the operating system to keep your data safe.
Default Android Security Features
- Encryption: Android offers its users the option to encrypt all data on their phones to keep it safe. Along with the data present on the phone, all future user stored data also gets encrypted. Even if your encrypted data gets leaked to malicious parties, it won’t be accessible to them.
- App signing: Apps developed for android must have been signed by the developer before releasing it. This allows users and other developers to verify the author of the app, and if any changes have been made to the original application package.
- Authentication: Most recent devices have included fingerprint sensors or other forms of authentication that Android OS supports. The authentication of saved passwords and fingerprints is done in a separate subsystem called Trusted Execution Environment (TEE).
- Verified boot: This feature is present in Android to make sure that only trusted code that comes from a verified source can be executed. This includes the hardware-based protection systems, the bootloader, and other system partitions.
Why is Built-in Android Security Not Reliable?
Since Android shares its low-level security features with the Linux kernel, it also has many other mechanisms in place to maintain security in the OS. But, despite all these features, malware attacks on Android devices are on the rise and the overall security needs to be more reliable to keep your private data safe.
Between Android and iOS, the latter has been considered to be much more secure. The major reason behind this is the fact that iOS is a closed source operating system, unlike Android. Apple device users can’t access or modify system files, and hence it is more difficult for hackers to find exploits and loopholes to gain access.
Android devices are completely open-source, and it is easy to tinker with your system files once you have unlocked access to system files by a process called rooting. You can also unlock the bootloader to install different versions of Android and other modifications yourself. With this level of access, the user can make modifications that decrease the security of Android devices.
How to Check if Your Phone is Compromised?
In case you suspect that your Android phone has malware loaded on it, take a look at these common indications of phone malware attacks.
- Increased Battery Usage and Heat Generation
If your smartphone has suddenly become more sluggish or heats up more than usual without any significant usage, it can be a sign of malware executing processes in the background. You can navigate to the battery section in your Settings app to check which processes take up the most power in your phone. These apps may be infected with malware installed on your phone.
- Random Messages with Attached Links
Several malware programs rely on being spread by infected links and attachments. If you find unexplained messages with links or warnings, keep a lookout for malware infections on your phone. Even serious infections like Ransomware attacks spread through text messages on Android devices.
- Look Out for Hidden Apps
All apps present on an Android device do not show up in the app drawer, and some of them are hidden to prevent clutter. This includes services, application add-ons, system management apps, and more. But this can be a big issue when a malicious application has been programmed to be hidden. Most users won’t even be aware that there is a malicious app installed on their device. To check if you have any hidden malicious apps on your device, go to your phone settings, and navigate to Applications to get a list of all installed programs.
Things You Can Do to Avoid Keep Your Phone from Being Compromised
Now that you know that relying on built-in Android security is not enough to keep your device secure, there are a few things you can consider to keep it safe from being infected in the first place.
Get a Proper Antivirus for Your Device
Despite the fact that antivirus programs on Android devices have been proved to be not very effective, there are still a few really good antivirus solutions for your phones. Most people think that antivirus is only used to protect the data that is stored on your PC. But that’s not true, having a good antivirus loaded on your android device enables you to scan your storage for malicious packages and files, and some of them even offer real-time protection to users.
Software and Security Updates
Updating your phone whenever updates are available ensures that you have the latest security improvements in your device. Also, third-party apps on your phone should also be updated to prevent getting your data breached by loopholes in the security of older versions.
Grant Only Essential Permissions to Apps
Most apps will ask for your permission to perform certain functions on your phone. These can be permissions for access to location, camera, storage, call logs, etc. Double-check if certain permissions requested by the app are needed for its core functionality.
Don’t Sideload Apps Unless Necessary
Sideloading apps on your android device from locations other than the play store can introduce malware on your device. Almost every app on the Play Store is verified and checked for malware before being released. But, apps from third-party sources can contain malware built into them.
Security breaches are not limited to your personal computers. As more people depend on their mobile phones for everyday work on the go, the chances of malware attacks are ever rising. Unfortunately, the built-in Android security can’t be relied on to avoid all malware attacks.
Knowing how to diagnose if your device is infected, and taking measures to prevent malware is essential to keep your data safe and secure. Until Android implements stricter built-in security measures, your best bet is to follow the tips listed above to keep your smartphone safe.