Mobile phones play an ever-increasing role in the operations of businesses. Not just for communication any more, smartphones are used to access data; to record video, audio, and still images and play them back; to help with meeting agendas and travel schedules; and to find everything from your client’s jobsite to local restaurants while traveling. Smartphones are indispensable, but equipping every employee with his or her own phone can be expensive as well as bothersome in terms of wrangling separate devices for business and personal use, not to mention the learning curve of switching to a different OS. Many companies may decide to implement a “bring-your-own-device” policy to counteract these issues. However, if you allow or encourage your people to use their own devices, expect a lot of Android devices, and better learn how to make them secure.
Remember how Apple users always crowed that their Macs never got viruses like PCs? They seemed to think that Macs were somehow impervious, but it was really more of numbers game. Why would hackers bother going after the much smaller population of Mac users, with all those PC users out there providing such a tempting target? Android phones are in the same boat for pretty much the same reason–there are just so many more of them. Consider that there are over 500 different Android phones, as opposed to six different iPhone models.
With those facts at hand, it may seem like too daunting a task to try to incorporate Androids into your business, and yet it can be done, with necessary precautions. First off, enable encryption, so your data isn’t sitting there like an open book left on a table at Starbucks. Google reports that the next iteration of its Android OS will encrypt data as a default, but most of the older ones have this as an option, anyway, so check your user settings and enable it. The oldest Androids, however, don’t have it. Encryption started being a feature with the 2.3.4 version, so if you have an older version such as 2.1 or 2.2 (go to Settings and then About Phone to get this information), it’s time to look for an update–or a newer phone, which will probably have more features that will be useful for your business, as well.
Second after enabling encryption is finding a good anti-malware program and installing that. Some packages protect your data with extra firewalls, and some contain anti-virus software, which is essential. Do a little research before you decide on any given program–people are more than happy to share pros and cons in online reviews, or trusted sources like Wired Magazine may have reviews. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that anti-malware protection doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg–many very good security packages for Android are free, such as the highly-acclaimed TrustGo.
A great way to keep your personal life out of the business side of things is the ability, starting with Android version 4.2, an Android phone can have separate user accounts, which allows each user an individualized login with only that corresponding data available. This is handy for parents who let their kids use their phones, but just as handy for you to separate your work life from your civilian life so that your crazy friend George doesn’t call in the middle of a meeting, or your client to whom you’ve passed your device doesn’t accidentally wander past jobsite photos into shots of you and your partner at the beach.
Another excellent option is the “remote wipe”. If your phone is lost or stolen, this enables you to use a texted password to either lock the phone remotely, or to wipe its contents completely, protecting your sensitive data.
Last but not least, be careful what you let in–most malware comes waltzing in the front door, disguised inside an app that you downloaded. Although it goes against your desire to do your own thing, it’s most prudent to stick to the pre-screened apps from Google Play. It’s not completely foolproof, but it gives you a much larger measure of protection than traipsing around the Wild West all by yourself.