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Want to secure your smartphone? Check out the 7 basic steps to stay secure

As Android smartphones and tablets grow in popularity, it’s no surprise that the number of malware outbreaks is growing. Mobile anti malware apps can give your phone or tablet an extra layer of protection

The majority of Android security apps are actually packages that include a host of other tools from contact filtering to remote lock or wipe. We decided to take a look at the top five Android security apps and find out what they do. We are taking a look at these from a consumer point of view, so be warned that some of the “free” apps are only free for personal, non-commercial use.

As long as you have an app from a major security software vendor, you’ll likely have adequate coverage. McAfee seemed to be the only major security vendor whose app had less than a 65 percent malware detection rate.

1. Android’s own screen pinning system

One of Android’s most useful security tools is also one of its most easily overlooked. Screen pinning made its debut with Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop release in 2014 — but I’m willing to bet the vast majority of Android phone-owners either have forgotten all about it or never even realized it existed in the first place.

Take a minute and make sure the feature’s activated now so it’ll be ready when you need it: Just head into the Security section of your system settings and look for the option labeled “Screen pinning.” Tap that line, then check to see that the toggles are activated next to both “On” and “Ask for unlock pattern before unpinning.”

The next time you need to pass your phone to someone, first open the app you want them to be able to use. Then tap the Recent Apps key (the typically square-shaped icon next to the Home key). Your app should be in front as the most recently opened app; just scroll upwards until you see a circular pushpin icon.

Tap that pushpin, and you’re all set: Your phone is now locked to that app and that app alone

2. A password management app

Perhaps the greatest risk to your personal security is the use of weak or frequently repeated passwords. We all have about a billion passwords to our names these days, and it’s virtually impossible to make each one strong and unique without a little help.

3. A two-factor authentication utility

No matter how secure your passwords may be, they’ll never be bulletproof. Adding a second layer of protection is the best way to keep unwanted intruders out — and it’s really quite easy to do.

The dual-layer protection process is known as two-factor authentication, and it basically means that in order to get into your most important accounts — like those on Google, Dropbox, a variety of financial institutions and even password management apps like LastPass

4. Android’s Smart Lock feature

Securing your phone with a pattern, PIN or password is important; we all know that. But having to put in that code every time you want to use the device can get annoying fast

Look for Smart Lock in the Security section of your system settings (on Android 5.0 or higher) to get set up.

5. Android’s advanced app-scanning feature

You wouldn’t know it from all the third-party companies peddling anti-virus software for smartphones, but Android has actually had its own native malware-scanning system in place since 2012. In addition to checking apps for potentially harmful code when they’re installed, the OS can continuously scan your device over time to make sure nothing problematic ever pops up.

All you have to do is opt in by going into the Google section of your system settings (or into a separate app called Google Settings, if you have an older device). Select “Security” and then activate the “Scan device for security threats” option, if it isn’t already activated. That’s it: Your device and the software already on it will handle the rest.

6. Android Device Manager

Another important security tool Android provides is one that can find, ring and even remotely lock or erase your phone from a computer or other mobile device.

The tool is called Android Device Manager, and it’s already on your smartphone and waiting to be used. Confirm that you have it enabled by going into the Google section of your system settings (or into the separate app called Google Settings) and then selecting “Security.” You’ll want both options under “Android Device Manager” to be activated.

7. An Android VPN client

This final item isn’t one everyone needs, but if you spend a lot of time surfing the Web through open Wi-Fi networks — at airports, hotels or other public places — it’s worth considering. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts all of your data and keeps strangers from snooping in and seeing your personal info.

It can allow you to mask your actual IP address and location, too, and thus access websites and services that might normally be blocked in your area — something that could be relevant and beneficial for some users.

About Jay Kumar Ryan

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