/ Technology

Is your device safe without a mobile security app?

All of the major antivirus companies offer apps for your mobile device. So should you download one, or is it enough just to have your wits about you?

You wouldn’t distribute sensitive private information to even your closest friends. Yet many of us feed a catalogue of such data – from personal emails to bank details – into our smartphones and tablets on a daily basis.

And as these devices become more instrumental to our everyday lives – whether for online shopping, personal banking or social media – scammers and online threats are increasing in numbers.

What can mobile security apps offer?

Although odds of your Android device or Apple iPhone being infected with malware are relatively low, mobile security apps still have a lot to offer.

The best ones will detect attempted phishing scams – seemingly trustworthy messages or ads that try and trick you into revealing your personal data – and alert you before you can fall foul.

Some have other features that you may find useful, such as parental controls that let you individually lock down apps you don’t want your children accessing. Another – ‘remote photo’ – takes a snap from the phone’s main camera if the device goes missing or registers unusual activity. This will show you its surrounding area or, if it’s been stolen, hopefully capture a glimpse of the thief.

Top tips to keep mobile details safe

Downloading a Best Buy app is a good start, but you can also do a lot yourself to minimise the risks. Here are three simple ways to keep the private information on your phone and tablet safer:

  1. 1. Use home screen lock and safety apps

Implementing a password, pin code or fingerprint ID to access the home screen is your device’s first line of defence. Make sure a find-my-phone app is installed, plus you can download a remote wipe app, which you can use to clear all your private details from your device and stop them falling into the wrong hands.

  1. 2. Don’t stray from Google’s Play Store

Google checks and verifies every app it makes available through its official Play Store. So in theory, anything you download from there will be safe to use. Make sure that the ‘Unknown sources’ option isn’t selected in your security settings, and your device will only let you download apps from the Play Store.

  1. 3. Keep your OS up-to-date

As well as adding new apps and functionality, updates to Android and Apple’s iOS seek to add layers of protection to counter the ever-increasing plague of viruses and infections that threaten your mobile tech.

Have you downloaded a security app on your smartphone or tablet? Do you think it’s a must have on a new device, or is a little common sense all you need to keep scammers at bay?


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Thanks Adam. I have been waiting for information from Which? about security on phones and tablets. I’ve never used mine for any financial transactions and I’m quite happy to pay by cards for the time being, but I will certainly look at installing security apps.

I would be interested to know if there are any problems associated with installing security software on phones etc. In the early days, anti-virus software could significantly affect the performance of computers and Rapport, which my bank urges me to use, still does.

Thanks Duncan for naming some products. I have often wondered about installing such protection on my iPhone and iPad but have never done so. I will look into the products you named.
I would like Which! To provide more detailed reviews of such products rather than just the generic good practice points stated. That advice is sound and I already follow it, but more can be done.

I think it perhaps worthwhile to recall that the friendly spy networks actually have a backdoor to all operating systems and to rely on the black hats not to find them is asking a lot. Accept that these systems are hackable, consider what you have on your smart phone to a minimum to retain functionality, and go with it.

The biggest protective feature is actually there are so many targets why pick on you. : )

However if you think this is alarmist talk on safety this week on the Register this part of an article:
“19 Jan 2016 at 21:50, Kieren McCarthy
The UK government’s official voice encryption protocol, around which it is hoping to build an ecosystem of products, has a massive backdoor that would enable the security services to intercept and listen to all past and present calls, a researcher has discovered.
Dr Steven Murdoch of University College London has posted an extensive blog post digging into the MIKEY-SAKKE spec in which he concludes that it has been specifically designed to “allow undetectable and unauditable mass surveillance.”
He notes that in the “vast majority of cases” the protocol would be “actively harmful for security.”
Murdoch uses the EFF’s scorecard as a way of measuring the security of MIKEY-SAKKE, and concludes that it only manages to meet one of the four key elements for protocol design, namely that it provides end-to-end encryption.
However, due to the way that the system creates and shares encryption keys, the design would enable a telecom provider to insert themselves as a man-in-the-middle without users at either end being aware. The system would also allow a third party to unencrypt past and future conversations. And it does not allow for people to be anonymous or to verify the identity of the person they are talking to.”

” Samsung sued over ‘lackadaisical’ Android security updates
Samsung is being sued by a Dutch consumer group for its alleged lackadaisical approach to security updates for its Android phones. The Dutch Consumers’ Association (DCA) claims that an incredible 82 per cent of Samsung phones do not have the latest version of Android installed. It blames the Korean giant for failing to prod …

DCA in this instance is actually the Consumentenbond with whom I have previously been in contact. In a small country they have a higher uptake of membership – around 400,000 subscribers than Which in the UK. The CEO is paid around 150,000Euro. They have a good governance system.

The request seems very valid and I am sure we would all support it. I assume that in the UK Samsung phones are dealt with similarly!?. And of course then wonder why we appear to be behind the curve what is going on.

What with the Belgian , and the Italian, consumers groups suing Apple, plus other cases you begin to wonder if we lack attack.

“DCA’s Demands from Samsung
The agency has requested the manufacturer to update all of its smartphone devices to the latest version of Android operating system for two years since the handset is purchased (not launched).
In some ways, the agency wants Samsung to treat software updates as part of the warranty that has its length mandated at two years in the European Union.
“[We are] demanding that Samsung provides its customers with clear and unambiguous information about this,” The DCA writes. “Also, [we are] demanding that Samsung actually provides its smartphones with updates.”

I have installed the Avast mobile security app after reading the article in Which? Magazine, and I download all the updates for the apps I use. So far so good.

The only thing I find annoying with updates is that they can be proposed for applications that I never use on my smartphone and have disabled, eg youtube. I wish my phone could detect that the apps are disabled and leave it at that.

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It’s a Which? good value Moto E, now superseded by Moto G, I believe. :0)

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Sorry, Duncan, I meant superseded as a good value phone as the Moto E wasn’t mentioned in the last Which? review. Incidentally I’m very happy with my little Moto E.

Thanks very much for the instructions! I have followed them and let’s see what happens.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

I am shocked at that last statement as I always get my games from Google play store and thought this was my safest option. ..if this is correct can they be held responsible for this….the public is being treated so unfairly…it takes the enjoyment away from the exciting new developments we hear about as we never know what we are buying into…thanks