University of Oregon

Keeping Your Android Device Secure

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Types of Malware

There are two major types of malicious software when it comes to Android. The first type is by far the most common; they are applications that spam you with ads or redirect you to a spam website. These applications can be found on the Google Play app store and also require your permission to spam you.

The second type of malicious software are applications designed to infiltrate your phone, steal information, or even send text messages to numbers that would charge you. This type of malicious software is rare on Android. They are usually only installed from a third-party app store separate from the Google Play app store.

Spam and Ad Software

The first type of malicious software is not actually recognized as malware because it requires your permission to run. When you first install one of these applications you have to give it access to things like the internet, text messaging, phone calls, or other systems. The only way to prevent these applications from running on your Android device is to carefully read what permissions the application is requesting and make sure it is, in fact, the application you want. Many malicious apps will try to look like other major applications so people will install them. Be sure to read the comments and check the publisher before you install applications.

Security programs will not find and delete these apps because they only do what you allow them to, so to prevent these applications from running on your device, carefully read what the application is requesting access to and stop installation if it asks for permissions it shouldn't have.

Removing Malware

The second type of malware can be detected by anti-virus programs. There are several strong options currently available from the Google Play Store. Depending on the reviewing website the below applications all rank highly:

  • Lookout Mobile (usually #1 or #2)
  • Kaspersky Internet Security
  • Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus
  • Avira Antivirus Security
  • AVG Antivirus Security
  • Norton Security and Antivirus
  • McAfee Antivirus & Security

If you have been using another third-party app store or are worried about malware using one of these programs to scan your device could prevent fraudulent charges and data theft.

Protecting Yourself From Malware

One common vulnerability to malware comes from rooting your device. This removes many of the default Android security features and can allow malware more access than they normally would have.

As stated previously, using a third-party app store increases your chance of obtaining malware significantly. Google scans every application when it is uploaded to the Google Play app store, which eliminates most of the second type of malware. However, many spam and ad type software can make it through the filter since they are not technically malware and only do what they are given permission to do.

Another important defense against malware is keeping your Android software and application software updated. Many users become infected because of security holes left over by out-of-date applications and out-of-date Android software.