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Android viruses on the rise: here’s how to stay safe

With 3.5m malicious apps predicted to hit Android in 2017, our top 5 tips will help you keep the nasties at bay

A new study by a mobile-security group claims that the number of Android malware apps is growing at an ‘alarming rate’.

The unsettling news, which arrives courtesy of research from G DATA, says that this year will be the worst ever for dangerous apps.

The team at G DATA say that around 750,000 malicious files have been identified so far this year, and by December that figure is expected to rise to a whopping 3.5m. Based on these numbers, almost 9,000 new instances of malware are spotted every single day, which really hammers home the importance of keeping your device secure.

Best Buy mobile security apps – Keep your personal data safe with these apps

Android malware is out of control

Since 2012, the number of known malware apps affecting Android has grown year after year. Such apps can slow down your smartphone or tablet, steal your personal data and leave you vulnerable to further attacks.

Data collected by Google this month shows that only 0.5% of Android users are running the latest OS version, 7.1 Nougat. Meanwhile, almost 20% (18.8%) of users are still on Android KitKat, which is almost four years old.

Smartphones that run on older, unsupported versions of Android are less likely to be treated to software updates, which means they’re exposed to bugs that they can’t get fixes for.

So how are things looking for the year ahead? Sadly, the forecast isn’t good.

 

How to secure your Android smartphone – 5 top tips

Android malware continues to thrive, so it’s more important than ever to keep yourself safe. Here are some tips on how to make sure your personal data stays in your own hands.

1. Don’t trust every app

The most common way for malware to infect your smartphone is through a potentially dangerous or fraudulent app. Generally, it’s a good idea to download only apps you really need and use, but the golden rule is to avoid downloading apps from third-party app stores. In other words, stick to Google Play (right), Samsung, or another ‘official’ app store that you clearly recognise. Before you install the app, look carefully at the requested permissions, and if anything seems particularly unusual, think twice.

2. Keep your system up to date

Android usually does a pretty good job of informing you when a new system update is available and encouraging you to install it. These updates often include important security fixes, as well as other benefits such as improved performance, stability and battery life. In short, if your phone is telling you to install a system update, it’s best to do so as soon as you can.

3. Use a password

Although it sounds obvious, using some form of unlock protection – a Pin, password, or fingerprint scanner – can not only deter thieves, but also means people can’t install apps on your phone without permission. This can be extended to password protection for app downloads – useful for parents, for example, whose children may not always be supervised when using the phone and may inadvertently install an unsafe app.

4. Don’t ‘root’ your phone (or buy one that’s already rooted)

When a phone is rooted, it gives you more control over system settings and behaviour, but also removes important safety measures that would usually protect your data. This means malware could also gain access to this data, exposing you to more security risks. There’s also a chance you could irrecoverably damage the device.

5. Try a mobile security app

There’s a wide range of mobile security apps available, but they can vary quite considerably when it comes to the level and types of protection on offer. Some are free, some involve a one-off purchase, and others a regular subscription. We conduct in-depth tests on mobile security, and have discovered some that are truly capable of protecting your phone, and others that are barely worth installing at all. What’s more, we’ve found free apps that outperform expensive alternatives – so paying a premium is not always a guarantee of quality.

Mobile security apps put to the test

Our Best Buy security apps offer brilliant protection against Android nasties, stopping criminals from stealing your passwords and credit card details. Many of the best apps we’ve tested will keep you secure without slowing down your phone, while others also offer a remote-wipe feature that lets you delete data if your phone is lost or stolen.

We’ve tested the latest and greatest apps from big-name security brands including Avast, AVG, Norton and Trend Micro. Over on our reviews page you’ll find a mixture of security apps for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

To help pick the perfect mobile security app for you, read our in-depth Which? guide on how to choose the best mobile security app, or go straight to our mobile security app reviews.

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