Unlike the iOS App Store, the Google Play store is a much more open and accessible marketplace. This makes it easier to develop for Android, but it also means that users are vulnerable to malware and viruses posing as useful or fun apps.
Even if you haven’t downloaded an app from the Play store yet, your phone is still extremely vulnerable to loss or theft. It’s likely you keep personal data, business correspondence, or even banking information on your device. How can you protect that data if the device goes missing?
People are trusting their devices with more personal data, while at the same time malware and viruses are becoming more ambitious and common. These two trends have been met with the rise of mobile security apps, protecting users from these exact threats.
Below are three apps that keep the user safe from most of threats to their data and mobile device.
Lookout Mobile Security (Free, with a Premium option)
The main threats for Android users exist on the Google Play store, which is why apps like Lookout exist. During setup, it scans your old apps for malware and viruses. After initial setup, it runs in the background, scanning new apps as they are downloaded.
Not only does Lookout provide basic malware protection, it also comes with several other security and peace-of-mind features. Upon logging in to your Lookout account on their website, you can locate the device on a map or make your phone or tablet “scream” (much louder than your ringer and works even if your phone is on silent). Premium users ($2.99/mo or 29.99/year) can also lock the device and wipe all data if it is permanently lost or stolen.
Lookout even backs up contacts, pictures and call history to the web portal, although picture and call history backups are only available to premium users.
Avast! Mobile Security (Free)
Where Lookout provides simplicity and ease of use, Avast! Mobile Security provides an utterly exhaustive feature set. In addition to securing you from malware and virus threats, you can locate the device, sound a siren, lock the device, wipe the device, call the device, send a message to the device and much more, right from the Avast! portal.
Unlike Lookout, Avast! places a heavy emphasis protecting you and your data if your device is lost or stolen. Avast! Anti-Theft features allow a user to force the data connection to stay active so the device can be tracked, lock the phone settings, and prevent USB debugging (which is often used by thieves to reset a device to factory settings after it has been stolen).
Avast! also tries to keep its users aware of privacy and permission settings of the different apps on their device. Privacy Advisor shows you which apps have access to which areas of your device, but as far as I can tell does nothing to help you limit that access from within the app. Network Meter tracks how much data each app is using, which is helpful for those of us who aren’t using unlimited data plans.
Because it has most of the features Lookout has, Avast! could be used as a replacement for lookout, but if used together, they present a very thorough security solution for Android devices.
Gryphn Secure Text Messaging (Free)
Lookout protects the information on your device from falling prey to malware and viruses on the Google Play store, while Avast! is a great solution for preventing your data from getting into the wrong hands if the phone is lost or stolen, but what about the contents of your text messages, on the phone and coming and going from your device?
Gryphn Secure Text Messaging replaces your stock texting app and encrypts text, picture and video messages, both on your device and in transit. Even if you do have the misfortune to download malware or come into contact with a virus, neither of these will be able to access any of your messages, images or any other texting content.
After the quick setup process you are greeted by a clean interface (based on the stock Android Jelly Bean messaging app) and all of your old text conversations, ready to continue them in a safer environment.
If you have friends, family or colleagues who have the app, you can enable encryption for those conversations, meaning your messages are encrypted in transit and decrypted by their device on the other end. Even your wireless carrier, which usually stores your text messages for anywhere from 3 months to a year, can’t read what you are saying. Only the sender and the recipient can read encrypted messages.