If you have an Android phone, you should take some time to make sure it’s secured properly. Modern versions of Android have several protection tools built-in; while they ask you to configure the most important items during setup, it’s worth checking them every so often too.
Let’s look at some essential built-in security features of Android everyone should know how to use. You’ll see stock Android 10 screenshots below; the functions may be a bit different on your device.
1. Find My Device
Losing your device—whether out and about or under the couch—can be scary. Google’s Find My Device feature (formerly Android Device Manager) helps you locate your phone in either of these situations. It’s wise to get it set up properly before something goes wrong.
To make sure you have it on, head to Settings > Security > Find My Device. If you have the slider at the top in the On position, you’re all set. Go back to Settings > Location to make sure your device can use your location for functions like this.
When you want to locate your device, go to Google’s Find My Device page in a browser where you’re signed in with your Google account. You can also install the Find My Device app on another Android phone or simply search Google for “find my device”.
With any of these options, you can play a sound to help you locate your phone in your house, secure it by locking and signing out of your phone, or erase everything on it.
2. Google Play Protect
Play Protect is effectively a built-in malware scanner for Android. It’s enabled by default and scans the apps on your phone as well as new ones you download from the Play Store. While not perfect, it will help keep your device protected from shady apps.
To make sure Play Protect is on, go to Settings > Security > Google Play Protect. Here you can run a scan and see when a scan was last run. Tap the gear icon in the top-right and turn Scan apps with Play Protect to also check for dangerous apps that come from outside the Play Store.
3. Lock Screen Security Options
Your lock screen is the primary defense against unauthorized people using your phone, so it’s vital that you protect it properly.
If you don’t already, using lock screen security is a must. Go to Settings > Security > Screen lock to choose a new option or change your code. Depending on your device, you may also have Face unlock or Fingerprint unlock as an option here.
We’ve compared Android unlock methods if you’d like more info.
Tap the gear icon next to Screen lock to change a few related options. Lock after screen timeout controls how long your screen locks after the display turns off. We recommend setting this to Immediately or 5 seconds so your device isn’t accessible to anyone for long periods of time.
You should also control what’s visible on your lock screen. Visit Settings > Privacy > Lock screen to choose whether you want to hide sensitive notification content or hide all notifications on the lock screen. Hiding sensitive content will, for example, show the alert that you got a new text message while hiding its actual content.
4. Manage App Permissions
Apps must ask for permission to access sensitive information on your phone, such as your location and contacts. It’s important to regularly review what apps you’ve given this access to so you don’t leak personal details to apps that shouldn’t have them.
Visit Settings > Privacy > Permission manager to view permissions by category and control the apps that can access them. When you select an app, hit See all [app] permissions to review everything else you’ve granted to it.
See our full guide to Android permissions for a lot more info.
5. Run Google’s Security Checkup
While it’s not strictly an Android setting, we include this Google tool since your Google account is closely tied to your Android device for logins and other purposes. You can use Google’s security checkup to get recommendations on ways to secure your account.
To try it, go to Settings > Google and tap Manage your Google Account at the top. Scroll over to Security and you may see a Security issues found section; tap Secure account here.
This will recommend ways to better secure your Google account, such as removing old devices, turning on two-factor authentication (2FA), and revoking third-party app access. In particular, using 2FA is a must if you don’t already.
To access the same tool on the web, head to the Google Security Checkup page.
6. Use Safe Browsing in Chrome
Chrome, the default browser on most Android devices, includes a Safe Browsing mode to weed out the most dangerous websites you may come across. It should be enabled by default, but it’s worth checking to make sure you haven’t disabled it.
Open Chrome, tap the three-dot Menu button at the top-right, and choose Settings. Tap Sync and Google services and make sure Safe Browsing is turned on. You can also enable Warn you if passwords are exposed in a data breach for an additional heads-up.
7. Don’t Allow Unknown Install Sources or USB Debugging
If you’re an advanced Android user, you may have toggled on two settings that are useful, but also pose greater security risks.
First is installing apps from unknown sources. Also known as sideloading, this lets you install APK files from anywhere you like, not just the Play Store. While handy, leaving this enabled also opens the door for apps to abuse the privilege. You should thus disable the permission unless you’re currently installing a new app in this way.
See our guide to sideloading apps on Android for information on how to toggle this.
The other option is USB debugging, which allows your phone to communicate with the Android SDK on your computer. You can use this to push apps to your phone and even performed advanced commands like rooting.
Like sideloading, though, you should disable USB debugging when you aren’t actively using it. Otherwise, someone could run commands on your phone if they got hold of it. Follow our guide to USB debugging for info on how it works.
8. Emergency Info
Android lets you add some emergency contacts and other pertinent info that first responders or others can access. It’s wise to plug this in ahead of time, as it could potentially save your life.
To configure it, go to Settings > About phone > Emergency information to set up your emergency contacts, medical information, and more. You can also choose to show this on your lock screen, which is important for medical responders.
9. Lockdown Mode
Android 9 introduced a new feature called Lockdown. This allows you to quickly hide all notifications on the lock screen and disable fingerprint, face unlock, and Smart Lock options. It’s great any time you want maximum security on your device, such as if you suspect law enforcement may force you to unlock your device via fingerprint.
At Settings > Display > Lock screen display, enable the Show lockdown option button. Then to put your phone into lockdown, hold the Power button for a few seconds and tap Lockdown. You’ll need to enter your PIN or password to unlock your device afterward.
Keep Your Phone Safe and Private
We’ve looked at the most important ways to keep your Android phone secured out of the box. With these options, you’ll have a much more protected device from multiple angles—and you don’t even have to install anything extra.
Image credit: PK Studio/Shutterstock
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