First things first: before using your brand new Android you must configure it to avoid security disasters. It's simple, follow these seven advices.
The new Android device you have bought is not safe. A new smartphone or tablet is like a windowless and doorless flat - anyone can get in and see what is going on inside. Anyone can open its apps and remove or modify its data.
This is inherently the case - some of Android's safety features are enabled by default, while others are subject to your actions. For instance, the phone cannot set a password in your stead, nor determine who will be using the device.
To set up strong but also practical safety measures, here is what you must do. It is a simple process I recommend, and sometimes perform, when friends and relatives show me their shiny new unsafe phones.
1. Update the system to its latest version
Unless a device has just been released, most phones and tablets are bought months after their manufacturing. Their Android versions might be obsolete or in need of an urgent update.
Major updates (such as Android 5 or 6) do not only modify the system layout, but also add very useful safety improvements. Therefore, install official system updates as often as you can.
Android updates can be downloaded and installed from Settings > About > System updates. Also, do not forget to check out the manufacturer's forums for any upcoming updates.
2. Disable default apps that you will not be using
Once your operative system is up to date, your new Android will have several pre-installed apps. Some are Google's, some are the manufacturer's, and others are included for promotional reasons, such as games.
If you do not expect to use them, these apps might pose a safety risk - these programs run on the background without your supervision, after all. If one of these apps is vulnerable, the safety of your data will drop.
To prevent issues, as well as to cut down on resource use and do a visual tidy-up, disable apps from Settings > Apps. This tutorial explains the process step by step. Once disabled, apps will not show up on the launcher.
3. Enable Android's built-in antivirus
Google Play Services is, in a manner of speaking, the heart of Google residing in most Android devices. It grants access to Google's apps and services and provides very handy security features.
One of Google Play Services' least known but most useful features is installed app verification. It is not usually enabled in new devices, but I recommend enabling it instead of installing an antivirus.
App verification can be enabled from Google Settings (or Settings > Google) > Security. Enable both options in Verify Apps. From then onwards, Google will scan your apps and block them if malware is detected.
4. Set up remote block and wipe
Android offers a free tool to remotely find, block, and if it comes to worst, wipe the phone or tablet in case of loss or theft. It is called Android Device Manager (ADM).
If they are on and connected to the Internet, ADM can locate your devices in Google Maps and grant you basic controls to prevent the use of your apps and data. You must make sure it is enabled for it to work.
From Google Settings (or Settings > Google), choose Security and enable both Device Manager options for remote location and remote block and wipe. Read our tutorial on how to use ADM.
5. Enable screen lock
Locking your screen prevents unauthorized people from accessing your phone or tablet, whether it's friends, relatives or strangers. Almost one third of users forgets to enable this feature, in which case, preventing espionage becomes impossible.
Here we explain which are the most common types of screen locks and their advantages. Android's built-in lock's advantage is that no installation is required, but it lacks interesting options, such as intruder screenshots.
If you choose to use a third-party screen lock such as Screen Lock Guardian, remember todisable the system's lock to prevent double-locking and the hassle it entails.
6. Create user and guest accounts
Android tablets can be used by the whole family, and even by guests. That is why Android devices allow you to create users and add guest accounts. They work much like Windows or Mac accounts.
Android users have their own space to store apps and documents, but their data remains protected from other users. Guests, however, can only use apps, but cannot store data permanently.
Users can be created and managed from Settings > Users. You may add, modify and delete (if you are the device's owner) users from the menu, as well as enable and set up the guest account.
7. Set up your apps' security
Lastly, once your favorite apps have been installed, do not forget to access their safety settings. Apps such as Telegram have their own screen lock to protect message confidentiality.
Do not forget to keep your apps updated to prevent security breaches. Enable automatic updates via WiFi in Google Play's settings.