Android Cyber Security Vulnerabilities and How to Stay Safe

 

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Android Cyber Security Vulnerabilities and How to Stay Safe

The digital world has in the past few years witnessed a drastic move to mobile applications. Today, the mobile phone offers its users with convenience and practical functionality, and it has undergone several technological improvements that have enhanced its range of functions rapidly.

We now use our mobile phones for everything from business transactions, to social interactions, entertainment, and personal fitness among other things. The android OS has not only transformed the way companies carry out their business but has also basically changed the way we live our lives.

Android currently holds more than 70% of the total market share offering, and it is considered the most popular and commonly used OS, both for users and app developers. The OS’s popularity can be (for the most part) accredited to its open-source nature and the flexibility it provides in Android app development.

But, even with its popularity and massive functionality, the android app is not free from cybersecurity risks. Cybercriminals are always tailing anywhere with an upswing in digital activity, waiting to steal sensitive and personal data of users everywhere.

Let’s discuss some of the cybersecurity risks that android users should be aware of and how to stay safe.

Android Cybersecurity Risks

Network Spoofing

 

Network spoofing happens when hackers install fake access points (these are connections that seem like Wi-Fi hotspots, but are actually bait) in high-traffic public areas like airports, libraries, and coffee shops. The hackers give these access points popular names such as “Free Airport Wi-fi” to encourage unsuspecting users to connect.

 

In other instances, cybercriminals will ask users to create a user account to be able to access the free Wi-Fi, complete with a password. Since many people tend to use one email and password for multiple accounts, cybercriminals are then able to tamper with the user’s email, and other accounts connected to it.

Broken Cryptography

 

Broken cryptography happens when app designers use feeble encryption algorithms, or use strong encryption but fail to implement it in a secure way.

In the first scenario, developers tend to use common encryption algorithms despite their established risks to speed up the development process. In the end, any determined hacker can exploit these vulnerabilities to master passwords and gain entry. In the second case, developers may use very strong algorithms but leave other “grey areas” that restrict their effectiveness. For instance, app developers may leave security weaknesses in their code, which malware and attackers can use to compromise your device. These vulnerabilities may allow hackers to customize high-level app functionalities, like sending or receiving texts, and they may not require passwords to gain access.

 

App Permissions

It is very common for app developers not to totally understand the number and types of permissions an app needs. Similarly, most people simply hit the “Accept” button whenever an app requests for certain permissions, without thinking of the consequences. So, why is this an issue? Well, by giving an app certain permissions, you are allowing it to access sensitive and personal information stored on your device.

 

Unsecured Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi hotspots always come in handy when you want to access free internet. The best part is that these free networks are available everywhere, including airports, coffee shops, and libraries. The problem, however, is that free Wi-Fi networks are generally unsecured. Using these networks makes you an easy target for hackers and your accounts including PayPal, social media, and even VoIP conversations can get hacked.

 

As you can see, android phone users are at risk of so many security vulnerabilities. The good news is that there are precautions you can take to ensure you stay safe even as you enjoy all the functionalities that come with these devices.

 

How Android Users Can Protect Themselves

 

Use Safe Apps

Apps are some of the most common ways through which malware gets into your device. Now, Google scans all its apps for malware, so you can be sure that anything you download through Google Play is safe. While downloading third-party apps can be tempting, especially since these apps are usually free, it opens up your phone to a lot of issues. It’s a good thing that Google offers to scan any application installed from other sources, so at least make sure you run the scan when you are prompted.

Also, be careful when allowing your app some permissions. For instance, a game app doesn’t really need to access your contact list. Likewise, a navigation app may need permission to access your location, whereas a note-taking app doesn’t.

 

Avoid Unsecure Networks/ Use a VPN

Free public Wi-Fi may be convenient and all that, but it’s not safe. Cybercriminals can easily put up a man-in-the-middle attack using these networks. Avoid these connections as much as possible.

But, if you have to use any of them, ensure you take some precautions to stay safe. First, connect to the internet using a VPN. A VPN encodes your connection, making it impractical for attackers to access your data traffic when using unsecured networks.

Another thing you can do to stay protected while on public Wi-Fi is to make sure you only use sites and apps that encrypt data, which makes it quite difficult for cybercriminals to see whatever you are doing.

 

Lock your Device

This may seem obvious and unimportant but, locking your phone is a vital step to keeping it safe. In case you lose your device, the lock screen may help keep anyone from accessing your personal information. On the other hand, it takes someone with bad intentions just a few seconds to unlock your phone and download and install spyware, malware, or a virus. A locked screen might help prevent this.

 

Update your Software Regularly

Mobile phone OS updates are meant to improve user experience. This could be anything including performance and security. What happens is that hackers find vulnerabilities in the software and make use of them, then developers fix the flaws, only for the attackers to move to the next vulnerability. While it’s true that Google can’t always ward off these exploits, it does a good job of keeping Android updated to rectify the flaws.

 

The problem is that users are not keen on updating their software, even when prompted. Running your android phone on outdated software makes you vulnerable to malware since exploits become known over time, and cybercriminals know that most users don’t update their phones. Remember, these updates can protect your phone from newly discovered threats.

 

Encrypt your Data

Today’s phones hold a lot of data, and if stolen or lost, your emails, financial data, contacts, and more can be compromised. To protect yourself, ensure all your data is encrypted. Encryption means your data is saved in an unreadable format so it isn’t understandable.

Most phones allow encryption through their security settings. To confirm if your iOS phone is encrypted, head over to the settings menu and click on the “Touch ID & Passcode” button. You’ll be prompted to input your lock screen code. Scroll to the end of the page and confirm if it indicates, “Data Protection is enabled.”\

Remember, to encrypt an android device; you first have to ensure the device is 80% charged. This process can take an hour or even more.

 

Final Words

Today’s smartphone comes with a lot of functionality that was originally meant for laptops and computers. The problem is that mobile phones do not come with the same security features found on PCs. And, since cybercriminals are always looking for ways to gain access to user accounts and cause harm, mobile phones have become the next victim.

 

The extent of Android viruses, spyware, and malware may make you cringe at the thought of using your device. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember, cybercriminals always look for easy targets, so by taking certain precautions like the ones listed above, you can avoid most attacks. In a nutshell, you can protect yourself from most android risks by regularly performing system updates, downloading apps from the legit Google play, encrypting your data, and locking your device.

 

 

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