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Tips and tricks for protecting Android devices

By Eric Geier, Network World
August 15, 2011 06:07 AM ET

Network World - Android doesn't rival BlackBerry when it comes to security and enterprise support. But Android devices can still be reasonably secure. Here are some tips to help you protect your investment, privacy, and data.

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Password Protection

Android supports screen lock protection that requires a numeric pin or pattern to be entered before the device can be used. Though Android devices currently don't encrypt the files and data, this can still be a great way to keep out casual snoopers or thieves. However, you must enter this pin or pattern every time you use your phone, or after each time the screen goes black and locks.

8 essential security apps

If you find that too time consuming or annoying, consider using Unlock With WiFi. It will at least prevent you from having to keep entering pin or pattern while connected to your home or work Wi-Fi network — usually a safe place where your phone won't be stolen. Use it free with one Wi-Fi network or pay $3.99 for the full version, which can also automatically turn off GPS while on the network — saving battery power.

If you have a corporate Exchange email account on your phone, you might actually be forced to use screen lock protection via security polices set by your company. This means you also can't use apps like Unlock With WiFi.

If you think protecting your entire phone is overkill, you can protect individual apps (like Email, Calendar, Settings, Market, etc) using third-party app protectors. Here are two you might consider:

Application Protection (Free): This lets you protect an unlimited number of individual apps with a password of numbers or a pattern like the Android system supports. It's a relatively simple app protector. But you can configure whether to always prompt for the password/pattern, unlock the individual app until the phone is locked again, or unlock all protected apps until the phone is locked again.

You can input your email address so you can get a message with the correct password if someone has incorrectly guessed your password 10 or more times. This is helpful to alert you that someone is trying to guess your password or if you actually have forgotten it yourself.

Smart App Protector (Free or $1.50): This also supports number passwords (eight digits) or patterns. The free version lets you protect up to five apps in addition to the Market and Package Installer apps to protect against tampering. The free version also limits you from unlocking all protected apps when entering the password/pattern for one. But you don't have to re-enter the password/pattern for the same app in a given period of time, or until the phone is locked.

You can configure the amount of incorrect password/pattern attempts before you can try again. You can customize the app lock screen background. You can even set a time frame to limit when protection is active.

This app also provides some bonus features. You can prevent the screen from turning off when using select apps or auto-rotating.

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