Phones

Tips for a Malware-Free Android Smartphone

Android malware
Since more and more malware is emerging for the Android platform every day, you must pay strict attention to what is happening on your phone or tablet. Smartphones are essentially computers--and all computers are vulnerable to viruses, phishing, and other attacks from malicious software.

Here are five quick tips to help you keep your Android phone or tablet free of malware.

Always research the publisher of an app: What other apps does it offer? Does the publisher have its own website? Do any of the other apps look a bit shady? If so, you should probably stay away. Read online reviews, but remember that Android Market reviews may not always be truthful. Check around to see what reputable websites such as PCWorld, AppBrain, or AppLib are saying about the app before you press the download button.

Always check app permissions: Whenever you download or update an app, you see a list of permissions for it. An alarm clock app, for instance, probably shouldn't need to look through your contacts. The general rule of thumb: If an app is asking for more than what it needs to do its job, you should skip it.

Avoid directly installing Android Package files (APKs): When Angry Birds first came to Android, you could get it only by going through a third-party app store and "sideloading" it, installing the app by using an APK file. Although Angry Birds wasn't malware, in general it is highly advisable not to download and install APK files from third-party websites or app stores. Most of the time you won't know what the file contains until you install the file--and by then it's too late.

Put a malware and antivirus scanner on your phone: Several different big-name security companies already offer mobile-security options, many of them free. Antivirus apps such as Lookout Mobile Security can scan your phone and make sure that no malware is installed. On top of that, most of the utilities include features that allow you to track your phone--and perhaps even remotely lock it and wipe your personal data--if you lose the handset.

Watch out for scams: Believe it or not, your smartphone is prone to phishing scams, malicious sites, and drive-by downloads, just as your PC is. Malicious sites often try to trick people into entering personal information about themselves; even more annoying, however, is some sites' ability to automatically download malware to your phone. Because of a phone's smaller screen, users are three times more likely to click a suspicious link on a phone than when they are using a PC. Again, though, Lookout Mobile Security has your back: Its Safe Browsing feature is currently available in the Premium version of its app.

If you follow these steps and keep a watchful eye on your device, you should be able to enjoy your phone malware-free.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter

Comments