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Third-party antivirus, security, and privacy programs are available for Android phones, but they may not provide reliable and comprehensive protection from threats to security and privacy. This document provides an introduction into considerations for securing your Android smartphone. A similar document is available for Apple iPhone users. [View]

Stay Current and Updated

Perhaps the most important step you can take to secure your phone is to make sure you have a recent model with the latest operating system and security updates. Replace older phones to ensure you have the latest security capabilities. You can ask your cell phone company to help with ensuring your phone is capable of having the latest operating system.

It may seem wasteful, expensive, and disruptive to replace your smartphone frequently. So, have a plan to make the process as easy as possible. Don’t buy the most expensive ‘flagship’ phones. Keeping purchase cost at about $200 to $300 every few years is more affordable than spending $800 every time you upgrade. Stick with a specific manufacturer brand to streamline migration to a new device.

Android Smartphone Brands

Smartphones from Google, LG, Motorola, and Samsung are examples of Android phones. [View on Amazon] In addition to the security features already included in the Android operating system, these vendors may offer additional layers of security and protection.

Android Built-In Security

The current version of the Android operating system (version 12) includes many built-in security features. Below are some highlights from the Android Safety features list. [View All]

  • Android helps keep you protected, even when you aren’t using your phone. Our powerful tech helps defeat bad apps, malware, phishing and spam. We always try to keep one step ahead of threats, delivering timely recommendations to help you make the best decisions for your privacy.
  • Google Play Protect analyzes potentially harmful apps before you download them, so you can worry less whether they’ll hurt your phone or steal your sensitive data. Android regularly scans your apps for malware, prompting you to uninstall any bad apps. And machine learning helps our mobile malware detection teach itself about new threats every day, prioritizing your on-device security.
  • When you enter a password into an app on your phone using Autofill with Google, we will check it against a list of known compromised passwords. If there’s a match, we’ll alert you so you can take action.
  • Only pick up the calls that matter. Built-in spam protection in Phone by Google tells you if a call is bad, so that spammers can’t reach you. It also works in Messages to prevent spam from entering your inbox. To protect your privacy, spam detection doesn’t send sensitive information to the cloud—it happens entirely on your device.
  • Google Safe Browsing lets you explore the web with confidence, defending you from dangerous websites and malicious files. We warn you if you try to navigate to a bad website or file, getting you to safety so you don’t encounter malware or a phishing scam. Because you shouldn’t be tricked into handing over your private data.
  • Android security enables privacy. We protect your data by wrapping it in encryption and setting boundaries around what apps can do in the background. Browsing privately is simple with Incognito mode in Chrome and Maps. We also give you tools that help you control who can see what data and when.
  • Keeping you safe is at the heart of Android. Device encryption helps keep your data secure when your phone is locked so it looks scrambled to anyone trying to steal your information. When you back up to the cloud, everything is encrypted end-to-end, so only you can access that data.
  • We guard each app at the operating system level, so apps can’t snoop on each other’s data. And we’ll even notify you if we think someone tampered with your operating system. These features are always on, working in the background to make sure you’re protected automatically, all the time.

Mobile Carrier Service Provider Apps

There are security apps available from AT&T [ActiveArmor], Verizon [Digital Secure app], and other service providers. There may be a monthly fee for the full security experience. For example, AT&T charges about $4 per month and Verizon charges about $5 per month. Some mobile plans already include these features.

The security apps from your phone company may be able to provide additional features and benefits beyond what is already included in your phone. Some of the features may be a duplicate of what you already have available.

Third-Party Apps

Antivirus and security software companies like Norton provide security apps for smartphones. These may have a fee associated with them. Some of what they describe as ‘features’ are already built-in on most phones. So, these may be an additional unnecessary cost.

Some reviews of smartphone security software include complaints about phones slowing down, and batteries being depleted much faster than normal.