It only takes a few minutes from the very first time you power on your Android phone to lock it down for your security and privacy. Each version of Android comes with a host of features, though they vary between devices. Before you customize your phone or tablet, such as downloading new apps or syncing your data for the first time, these settings need to be checked.
Setting a strong passcode is imperative to protecting your Android phone or tablet. The longer the passcode (or alphanumeric password), the tougher it will be for an attacker to gain access to your device. A passcode is best, as in some states you can be compelled by law enforcement to unlock your phone with a fingerprint.
Go to Settings then Security, and go to Screen Lock. For a PIN, use a six digit passcode or longer for moderate security. The more digits, the tougher it is to brute-force. Or for even stronger protections, use an alphanumeric passcode.
Encrypting your phone prevents feds and hackers from accessing your personal data, but it's rarely enabled by default as it is known to slow down some older phones or tablets.
On critical devices, turning on encryption is easy, but may take a little time. We have an easy-to-follow guide here. In short, Go to Settings then Security, then Encrypt Device and follow the prompts. Some devices don't support encryption, but most newer devices are capable and don't suffer with performance issues.
Though storing your data in the cloud is good for backing it up, law enforcement can demand that Google turn over your data. The best way to keep your Android phone from sending your personal data to its servers is to turn off backup. The downside is if you lose your phone, you may lose your data.
Go to Settings then Backup & Reset, where you can switch off the option to Back up my data. Remember, you always have the option to manually back-up to your home computer.
Google's services are naturally deeply embedded in Android, but using them can open you up to data collection, ad targeting, and losing control over where your personal data is stored. The easiest way is to simply not sign in with your Gmail (or other Google) account.
But if you have, you should go through each option in Google Settings from the app menu. The next few slides gives you a few of the key settings to check.
Smart Lock aims to keep your data secure without taking a convenience hit. This feature, though, may leave your phone unlocked, potentially giving an unauthorized person access to your device's data. If you're happier keeping your data on your device (and passwords stored in your own memory), you can switch this setting off.
Go to Google Settings from the app menu, then scroll down to Smart Lock for Passwords. From there, switch the setting off.
Ad-tracking is one of the most pervasive ways for Google and its partners to track your habits. Turning off interest-based ads prevents ad networks from building up a profile on what you like and what you don't, based on your viewing, reading, or other habits.
Go to Google Settings from the app menu, then go to Ads, then you can Opt out of interest-based ads by switching on the setting.
Google Now is your own intelligence assistant by bringing information to you when you need it. But that gives Google a lot of access to your data to know what to dig up. The best way to use it is by turning it off from the lock screen, so only you with your passcode can use the feature and get access to your personal data.
Go to Google Settings from the app menu, then go to Search & Now, then Voice and "OK Google" Detection. From there, you can set the feature to work From the Google app but make sure the other options are turned off.
Or, you can turn off the feature altogether by going to Search & Now and then Accounts & Privacy, then access your Google Account where you can sign out.
Your location can say a lot about you, such as where you go and even who you meet and what you might do -- and Google uses these results to serve more relevant ads and other information. Turning it off can be good for your privacy.
Go to Settings then Location, where you can turn on and off at the top switch. You can also turn off Google Location History by scrolling to the bottom and turning the option off. From here, you can also Delete Location History so it gets scrubbed from Google's servers.
Lowering your phone's sleep timeout can prevent opportunistic people from getting access to your unlocked device. The lower the figure, the quicker it locks you out.
Start by going to Settings then Display. Under the Sleep setting, change the inactivity timeout to 30 seconds or lower, depending on preference. But there's one more setting you need to check...
Once you've lowered your phone's sleep timeout setting, you need to make sure that your Android device locks and presents the lock screen when it wakes up. A quick jump to Settings then Security, and make sure that the Automatically Lock setting is set to Immediately.
A lock screen won't necessarily prevent a thief or hacker from getting access to your data. You can enable a setting so that after ten failed unlock attempts, your Android device will be wiped clean and all data destroyed. You can turn this setting on from Settings then Security, and then (so long as you have your screen lock enabled), you can turn on the Automatically Wipe setting -- though, it should be enabled by default
Your lock screen can show a lot about your life. Your Android phone or tablet can limit what's shown on the lock screen in order to prevent others' from seeing your personal content as it comes in.
Go to Settings then Sound & Notifications, and scroll down. You can change how notifications are shown under the When device is locked setting. The most privacy conscious setting is to Hide sensitive notification content so that you know which app is alerting you, without showing its contents.
Unlike iPhones and iPads, Android devices can run third-party content outside of the Google Play app store. This can open up a device to malware attacks.
The easiest way to ensure that only verified and malware-checked apps can be installed on your phone or tablet is by going to Settings then Security, and ensuring that the Unknown sources option is turned off.
Many Android phone makers, including Samsung and LG, will now offer monthly security patches to ensure that any known vulnerabilities will be patched. You may be prompted to install these patches every month. Do it! It's one of the best ways to ensure that you won't be attacked by hackers and malware.
Make sure you periodically check for software updates by going to Settings then About phone (or About tablet), then head to System updates.