How to Protect your Android device

Android

Security starts with setting your device up to protect your information. Follow the steps in this checklist to make your Android device more secure. Android devices differ by manufacturer, so you may need to look in a few places to find the settings you are looking for.

Use the latest version of your device’s operating system (OS)

  • When updating software, do it from a trusted location and internet connection like your home or office, not at an internet cafe or coffee shop.
  • Updating to the latest OS may require you to download software and restart a number of times. You will want to set aside time for this where you do not need to do work on your device. Go through the steps of comparing the latest version to your device’s current version below, until your device does not give you additional new updates.
  • If the latest version of the OS will not run on your device, it is best to consider buying a new device.
  • Make sure you restart your device once an update has downloaded, to make sure it is fully installed.
  • See the most updated version available
  • Compare it to the version your device has installed
  • Update your operating system

Learn why we recommend this

Use apps from trusted sources

Remove apps that you do not need and do not use

Check your app permissions

Review all permissions one by one to make sure only apps you use can use them. The following permissions should be turned off in apps you do not use, and considered suspicious when used by apps you do not recognize:

  • Location
  • Contacts
  • SMS
  • Microphone
  • Voice or speech recognition
  • (Web)camera
  • Screen recording
  • Call logs or call history
  • Phone
  • Calendar
  • Email
  • Pictures
  • Movies or videos, and their libraries
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Near field communications (NFC)
  • Bluetooth
  • Any setting with “disk access,” “files,” “folders,” or “system” in it
  • Any setting with “install” in it
  • Facial recognition
  • Allowed to download other apps

Turn off location and wipe history

  • Get in the habit of turning off location services overall, or when you are not using them, for your whole device as well as for individual apps.
  • Regularly check and clear your location history if you have it turned on.
  • Location settings may be in slightly different places on different Android devices, but are probably somewhere in Settings, Privacy, and/or Security as well as your Google account preferences.
  • To delete past location history and set it so your devices and Google Maps do not save your location activity, follow the instructions here and here

Make separate user accounts on your devices

  • Make more than one account on your device, with one having “admin” (administrative) privileges and the others with “standard” (non-admin) privileges.
    • Only you should have access to the admin account.
    • Standard accounts should not be allowed to access every app, file, or setting on your device.
  • Consider using a standard account for your day-to-day work:
    • Use the admin account only when you need to make changes that affect your device security, like installing software.
    • Using a standard account daily can limit how much your device is exposed to security threats from malware.
    • When you cross borders, having a standard account open could help hide your more sensitive files. Use your judgment: will these border authorities confiscate your device for a thorough search, or will they just open it and give it a quick review? If you expect they won’t look too deeply into your device, using a standard account for work that is not sensitive provides you some plausible deniability.
  • How to add user accounts

Remove unneeded accounts associated with your device

Secure the accounts connected with your device

Set your screen to sleep and lock

  • Set your screen to lock a short time after you stop using it (try setting it to 1 minute or 5 minutes and see which works for you)
  • Use a long passphrase (minimum 10 characters), not a short password or PIN
    • Making it possible to use your fingerprint, face, eyes, or voice to unlock can be used against you by force; do not use these options unless you have a disability which makes typing impossible
      • Remove your fingerprints and face from your device if you have already entered them. Android devices differ, so this could be in a few locations on your device, but try looking where you would normally find your device lock settings.
  • Pattern locks can be guessed; do not use this option
  • Simple “swipe to unlock” options are not secure locks; do not use this option
  • Disable “make password visible” option
  • Set a long password
  • Set your device to sleep after a short period of time and require a password to unlock on waking. The place to do this will be different on different devices, but it may be under “Display,” “System,” or “Security.”

Control what can be seen when your device is locked

Disable voice controls

Use a physical privacy filter that prevents others from seeing your screen

Use a camera cover

  • First of all, figure out whether and where your device has cameras. Your smartphone might have more than one.
  • Low-tech camera cover: use a small adhesive bandage over your camera, and peel it off when you need to use the camera. A bandage works better than a sticker because the middle part has no adhesive, so it does not get sticky stuff on your camera lens.
  • Or search your preferred store for “webcam cover thin slide.” “Thin” is important because some covers are too thick, and your laptop may not close.

Turn off connectivity you’re not using

  • Completely power off your devices at night.
  • Get into habit of turning wifi, Bluetooth, and/or network sharing off when you are not using them.
  • Airplane mode can be a quick way to turn off connectivity on your mobile. Learn how to selectively turn on wifi and Bluetooth once your device is in airplane mode, to use only services you want.
  • Turn off Personal Hotspot off when you are not using it.
  • Turn airplane mode on and make sure wifi and bluetooth are off
    • Instructions vary by Android phone, but try these instructions or these instructions
    • Check the “Change more Wi-Fi settings” instructions here and make sure “Turn Wi-Fi on automatically” and “Connect to open networks” are turned OFF.
    • Make sure your device is not providing an internet connection to someone else using Personal Hotspot; find this setting and turn it off. Try these instructions or these instructions.

Clear your remembered wifi networks

Turn off sharing you’re not using

  • Android devices differ, but look for a “connected devices,” “device connections,” or similar option in Settings, and turn off or remove all devices there.
  • Turn off Nearby Share - If you must use sharing with someone near you, [set sharing to "hidden"](https://support.google.com/android/answer/9286773)

Advanced: figure out whether someone has accessed your device without your permission (basic forensics)

Follow the steps on the following checklists:

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