9 Ways To Lock Up Your Android Phone And Keep It Virus Free

Android in jail behind bars

Photo: Ellis Hamburger

One of the benefits of being an Android user is that you have access to a large variety of phones from several hardware makers.Another perk is being able to install apps from the Android Market, an open platform that is far less regulated than Apple’s “walled garden” App Store.

So the Android Market is a garden offering a greater variety of fruits, but you’ll need these tools to keep out the pests out who have been turning up lately.

If you have a Google Nexus S (others coming soon), WhisperCore encrypts all the data on your phone

Lack of data encryption is a big barrier for getting Androids in corporate offices, but this drawback may be eliminated soon with the help of 3rd party software.

For individual users, WhisperCore is free--it uses 256 bit AES encryption to secure your data and/or SD card. Set up a 'pass phrase' to make sure that even if your phone gets lost or stolen, your data will be completely locked up.

Price: free (still in Beta stage)

LookOut Mobile Security is the gold standard for Android security apps

LookOut packs the most important tools for keeping your 'Droid clean into a tight, free package.

Featuring Find My Phone (which locates your phone and can emit a loud warning alarm), an anti-virus scanner, and backup and restore capabilities, Look Out is a great bet.

One cool thing to note is that the developer claims the app runs in the background using very little battery power: one day of LookOut uses the same amount of battery as a 33 second phone call!

Price: free, but LookOut Premium features remote wipe/lock

Password-protect your device so only you can access it

Yes, we agree--it's a hassle entering in a password every time you open up your phone (which is many, many times per day), but we think the peace of mind is worth it.

Head to your Android Settings screen and enable 'Screen Unlock Security.' From here, you'll have a few options as to how to protect your phone such as pattern lock, pin lock, password lock, and even a fingerprint scan on the new Motorola Atrix 4G!

McAfee WaveSecure is a name-brand security option that can even backup your texts

This app boasts many similar features to LookOut such as backup/restore and remote GPS phone locating, but WaveSecure will lock down or wipe your phone for free.

WaveSecure can even track SIM cards inserted into stolen phones. Also, once you backup your data to McAfee's cloud, you can access it from anywhere. One drawback to this app is that unlike LookOut, it does not scan for viruses.

Price: free, also for Android tablets (beta, free until March 31st)

Get Norton Mobile Security (beta) for the most updated malware definitions

With Norton's new Android security app, you can remote locate, lock/wipe, but you can also screen callers and texts as well.

The real kicker here is Norton's anti-malware protection, which is an industry standard. Definitely pick this one up.

Price: free

Use AppScan to ensure you never download a Trojan virus posing as an app

Developer Aegislab claims that its new app can not only scan the Android Market for apps containing malware, but it can also help you find processes on your phone using an abnormal amount of data (which could indicate a virus).

AppScan includes over 200 virus definitions and is ad free!

Price: free (beta)

WebRoot Mobile Security blocks access to known sites containing malware

Webroot Mobile is a security suite for Android that features remote lock/wipe, password recovery, virus scans, secure web browsing, and a commitment to not slowing down your phone or browser, according to WebRoot.

It's a good option to some of the other apps we've mentioned because it also will warn you if you try to visit a site that could be harmful.

Price: free (but not for long, app is in Beta), Android

Don't root your Android device!

Similar to jailbreaking an iOS device, rooting your Android phone exposes a number of vulnerabilities in the operating system that a clever hacker can take advantage of. One clever hacker created a piece of code called 'Droid Dream' a couple weeks back that effected hundreds of thousands of rooted devices.

Additionally, rooting prevents OTA (over the air) updates from your service provider, and voids your warranty if you happen to mess up your phone somehow (but so does an iOS jailbreak).

Titanium Backup PRO is a powerful app manager and backup tool

If you do decide to root your Android, Titanium Backup PRO ensures you'll never lose your app data, and can also freeze system apps that are using too many resources. This 'app freezer' feature can really speed up your Android phone.

The app also offers encryption for your app data, as well as a handy sync to/from Dropbox feature for your app data.

Price: free for basic version, $6.25 to download a key to access Pro features we like such as the 'app freezer' (requires basic version to be already installed)

Now that you've learned how to tighten up security on your Android

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