Keep your phone safe: How to protect your Android smartphone from viruses

Discover simple and free steps to ensure your smartphone is secure and virus-free, including free software for BT broadband customers.

Google Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Android is considered an ‘open’ operating system, which essentially means that smartphone manufacturers are free to alter it to work in any way they want, and anyone can release apps for it.

Unfortunately, this also means Android is more prone to malware than other mobile operating systems. Just as you wouldn’t dream of using a Windows PC without malware protection like BT Virus Protect, nor should your Android smartphone be left exposed. Fortunately, protecting your Android smartphone or tablet is straightforward - and free. Read on to learn how.

[Read more: Discover how our brilliant extras keep you safe online]

Step 1: Update your version of Android

It’s important to keep your Android software up to date. As well as new features, each update includes bug fixes to help protect your phone.

Android app system update

In the Settings menu go to System - Advanced - System update’ (or ‘About phone’ on some devices) and you’ll see your update status, including whether your software is up to date and a new version is available to download.

[Read more: 7 tips to make your phone secure]

Step 2: Install antivirus software

Security software can protect your phone against viruses and malware. BT broadband customers can protect your Android smartphone for free with BT Virus Protect, which has been developed in conjunction with security experts McAfee.

BT Virus Protect runs in the background keeping your phone safe. It scans your device for threats and blocks viruses, malware and more; detects and removes ransomware and warns you if you are about to visit a risky website.

BT Virus Protect app

Anti-theft features including a locate alarm and feature called ‘Thief Cam’ that takes a photo when someone tries to access your device after three incorrect PIN attempts. The battery optimisation feature helps your phone battery last longer, it can block unwanted calls. Find out more about the features

How to install BT Virus Protect:

1. Locate BT Virus Protect in the Google Play Store, download and install the app.

2. Click the ‘Get your BT Activation Code’ link and log into MyBT using your BT ID.

3. Select ‘Tap to copy activation code’ and Back to App, where the activation code should post automatically in the app.

Step 3: Don’t install apps from unknown sources

There are Android apps available that aren’t in the Google Play Store. Google calls these ‘unknown apps’ and by default Android blocks you from installing them unless you opt in.

There used to be an option to opt-in if you wanted to install apps from unknown sources, but this was removed from phones running version 8.0 of Android (also known as Oreo). Instead you can now grant individual apps permission to install unknown apps. Installing apps from any unknown source is not something we recommend, as such apps could contain viruses that could damage your phone. Instead, always download your apps from the Google Play Store.

Step 4: Restrict downloads with a password

If you let other people use your Android smartphone, enable a password for installation of purchases - things like music, films, TV shows and apps. This is especially important for parents who don’t want their children installing sometimes expensive apps without their knowledge.

Android app authentication

Launch the Google Play store app then tap the three-bar menu button. Now tap Settings and look for Require authentication for purchases. Select For all purchases... or Every 30 minutes from the pop-up box. You'll now have to enter a password with any purchase.

Step 5: Read and understand app permissions

Google Play store apps will sometimes access information from your phone. Some apps have a legitimate need to access certain features: a web browser, for example, will need access to the internet, while a photo app will need access to the device’s storage.

Some apps ask your permission and show you the information they need before you install them, but some don’t. You view the information the app can access on the app’s detail page in the Play Store by scrolling down and clicking App permissions.

Android app permissions screenshot

If in doubt, or if you don’t want to share the information, don’t install the app.

The BT Virus Protect app scans all apps on your phone and ranks them by the level or privacy sensitivity, you’ll be able to see this information and if you aren’t happy, you can uninstall them with one click.

Step 6: Finally… Use common sense

Protection is all well and good, but it pays to be cautious.

First and foremost don’t click on dodgy links and always delete anything that looks suspicious. Email hacking is very common - you may receive an email from a trusted source containing a YouTube link with an unusual heading – don’t click on the link and, if your email app allows it, flag the message as spam or junk mail.

Additionally, if you get a spam text message informing you you’ve won a prize, delete it. If you haven’t entered a competition, you’re highly unlikely to have won a prize.

Download BT Virus Protect for your Android phone

Find out how your broadband extras keep you safe online

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