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A shocking study from Juniper Networks recently discovered that malware on the Android platform has surged by 400 per cent since 2010. But that’s no reason to leave the free and easy open charms of Android for the cosy security of Apple’s walled garden. It just means you’ve got to be a bit more careful. Here’s our guide to staying malware free.

1 Download a security app

lookout android

Lookout is consistently rated among the best security apps for Android. User testimonies and review sites indicate that it’s pretty much peerless for blocking malware, spyware and phishing apps. You can schedule regular scans to run automatically. And better still is that Lookout is free, easy to install and kind to your battery.

2 Avoid public Wi-Fi

wireless logo

Using an unsecured Wi-Fi network is effectively giving hackers carte blanche to harvest your user names, passwords and messages. Worse yet, they can grab your PayPal and credit card number, too. So while using Wi-Fi networks might appear like a cheap way to cut your 3G data usage, it could end up being anything but.

3 Turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi

android network settings

Many smartphones connect automatically to Wi-Fi networks in range, including fake Wi-Fi gateways set up specifically for fraudulent purposes. To avoid a breach, just head for the network settings part of your handset and switch off Wi-Fi when you’re out and about.

4 Do your research

Apps that purport to protect you from malware are often data-mining apps themselves. A case in point was an app masquerading as Google’s official Android Market Security Tool 2011 that the search giant had installed remotely in the wake of March’s major security breach on its platform. In fact, the fake app contained a Trojan that sent out expensive SMS missives without users' knowledge.

Avoid fake anti-virus apps by doing your research. That means checking user testimonies and seeking out reviews on tech sites.

5 Only use app stores you can trust

android market new

A recent study found that app downloads are where most malware is distributed. For that reason, you should shun third-party unregulated sites or app stores and only download apps from verified download sources such as Android Market and GetJar.

6 Install Android updates as soon as they’re available

gingerbread

When vulnerabilities in Android phones' operating system have come to light, such as in the case of Froyo, Google has at least attempted to iron them out with speedy security updates. If you don't bump handset to the new platform iteration as soon as it's available, you’re just issuing a come-and-get-me to hackers.

7 Check app permissions

Before you download an app, scan the list of permissions it asks for. And then apply a bit of common sense to see if they tally with the functionality of the app. If a rudimentary currency converter or barcode scanner wants access to your email and contacts when there’s patently no need for them to have them, just give it the swerve and find another app. Because there really are plenty.

8 Password protect your phone

You really, really should be doing this anyway. And as with any password, you should ensure it’s suitably robust, too, by avoiding obvious ones (stand up: 'password') and opting for a combo of numbers, letters and capitalised characters.

Password protection also means that should your phone be lost or stolen, it’s only the handset that’s gone. Your personal data is quite safe until you get a chance to wipe it remotely.

9 Download an app locker

app lock android

For a further layer of security, head to the Android Market and download an app locker. These let you restrict access to any apps with passcodes, which you can apply to messaging apps, contacts and what ever else you like. App Lock comes especially recommended.

10 Avoid adult content

We’re not trying to chaperone you here or spoil your fun. But it’s a fact that pornographic apps are notorious for being ridden with malware. If you’ve got to look at it, save it until you get home.

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