Why You Still Need to Worry About Your Android Security — Even If You Have Lollipop
With the release of the latest version of the Android operating system, version 5.0 or Lollipop, many people are convinced that it’s the most secure version yet. With new features like SmartLock and automatic encryption, proponents claim that Android phones are now completely safe from any type of data theft.
While these new features are certainly an improvement, they don’t guarantee that the information you send, receive, and store with your mobile device will never fall into the wrong hands. That’s because no matter what security tools and features a device contains, the responsibility for using them still falls to the user — and when a user does not use them correctly the result is the same as if you did not have the security tools at all. When you upgrade to Lollipop, keep these important points in mind when setting up your device, and avoid falling into a false sense of security.
1. Encryption is Limited
In previous Android versions, encrypting your device’s data required a cumbersome process that often negatively impacted the device’s performance. With Lollipop, data stored on the device is automatically encrypted, right out of the box.
This has a number of benefits. For starters, should your device fall into the wrong hands, without the right credentials, a thief will be unable to access the data stored on the phone. However, Lollipop’s encryption applies only to the device itself, not to data stored on cloud platforms or shared via networks. In other words, if you back up all of your contacts, photos, and notes on your device in a cloud server, and fail to properly secure access to that server with a password, the encryption on your device is all but useless. So don’t forget to encrypt and password protect your data everywhere, not just your phone or tablet.
2. Realize Smart Lock Is Not Enough
Another feature of Lollipop that’s getting a lot of buzz is the new Smart Lock feature, which allows the phone to be locked and unlocked via a nearby Bluetooth or Near-Field Communication device. Smart Lock also uses facial recognition technology to allow the owner of the device to read new messages or view alerts without entering a password.
While Smart Lock certainly helps address one common issue among mobile device users — the fact that many do not bother to lock their devices because they feel it is “inconvenient” — it has the potential to create a false sense of security. Just because you can remotely lock and wipe your device, and you can control the lock with another device, doesn’t mean that you are protected from all of the potential risks. For example, your phone can still become infected by malware, so you will still need a powerful Android security program to protect against harmful code that can lead to a significant data breach.
3. Public Wi-Fi Is Still Dangerous
Again, just because your device is protected by the new Lollipop security features, doesn’t mean you can’t overlook basic security common sense. After all, public Wi-Fi networks can still be populated by cyber criminals eager to get their hands on anything valuable that crosses their path. Even if the data is encrypted on your device and you are protected against malware, if you send and receive sensitive data via public Wi-Fi, such as at a restaurant or in a shopping mall, you are opening yourself up to theft. Never use public Wi-Fi networks to conduct banking, or to log in to sites that contain a great deal of personal information, such as social media. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN) or a cellular data connection to ensure a higher level of security.
4. Apps Still Require Caution
Security experts note that Lollipop is perhaps the best version, at least security-wise, of the Android platform yet. That being said, cyber security is an endless game of cat and mouse, with criminals constantly searching for ways to thwart even the best protection protocols. Case in point? Harmful apps. No matter what security features you have, malware developers are going to look for ways to steal information via apps. As a user, this means you need to learn the signs of a harmful app, pay close attention to the permissions that apps request, and avoid those that could be fake or designed to infect your device.
Again, in terms of security, Lollipop is far ahead of previous Android versions. However, it’s a lot like your car: If you drive recklessly and ignore the rules of the road, even the safest car will have a crash. The same goes for your phone, so don’t ignore your role in keeping it secure.