There’s a fair bit of fear, uncertainty and doubt out there when it comes to viruses and malware for mobile devices. While it is absolutely true that there are very smart people out there who would do just about anything to gain access to your mobile device and harvest all of the juicy bits for their own malicious uses, the truth is it takes way more effort on their end to successfully attack you than it does for you to protect yourself. There are a couple of simple, thoughtful things you can do to keep yourself safe as you enjoy your mobile device, and as long as you remember these steps you’ll be good to go.

Look Before You Tap

If a pop-up ad or a false login screen can con you into submitting your credentials, there’s no need to “hack” anything because you’ve purposefully handed that information over. That information gets fed to a bot who attempts to log in to anything and everything on your behalf, and the next thing you know all of your Twitter friends are furious that you’re DMing links to those very same data capture sites.

Do Not Leave ‘Unknown Sources’ Enabled

Every Android phone includes the ability to install apps that do not come from the Google Play Store. For the most part, this is a great feature. It’s how you gain access to cool things like the Amazon Appstore, and it’s one of those things that helps keep Android open and flexible. Unfortunately, very few apps that ask you to enable this feature to install an app tell you to go back and disable this feature once the app is installed. Leaving this particular door open on your phone or tablet is something that should never happen, no matter how savvy you think you are.

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Avoid illegitimate apps

There are good reasons to install apps that aren’t in the Google Play Store, but maybe not as many as there used to be. Google has worked hard to set up user testing areas for companies that want to beta test new features, which used to be the biggest reason to sideload apps. There are legitimate apps that would violate Google’s Terms of Service by offering their own app stores or offer content that Google disagrees with (Adult apps, for example), but outside of these apps there’s not much left unless you’re playing with Root access on your device. Tacking Root security is an entirely separate beast that we’ll set aside for another day, but for the majority of users out there all you really need to know is you should only install apps outside of the Google Play Store if you know without a doubt the app is safe.

Read App Permissions

Every app you install on any Android device must tell you what parts of the OS, including your personal data, that app is going to have access to. This information is shown to you in between you deciding to install the app and the software actually being installed on your device, giving you time to look over what that app wants access to. While it’s easy to treat this popup like generic Terms and Conditions popups on traditional computers, the ten seconds it takes you to read over this list and make sure you want whatever app you are installing to have access to your data could easily be what stops you from installing something that you consider adware or malware.

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