Screaming, swearing, and occasional violence to inanimate objects, but no crying in Android.
I bring this up because there have been some scary Android stories in the news lately. First, if you love any technology, there will always be scary stories, October or no. Fear causes eyeballs to stay on the page, and a lot of the Net is funded by eyeballs looking at pages that have ads on them.
When I get a scary story from someone trying to be helpful–often my mother warning me of a virus that hasn’t been an issue for the last three years and the mere continuance of the email is becoming a virus in its own right–I have a couple of places I like to check before panic sets in, and things I like to do if there is a potential risk.
1) Don’t click on anything in the email. Just don’t. You may have an awesome anti-virus (and if you read my first article, you probably do by now!) but its best not to try it out. Don’t click anything until you’ve done further research. This goes for your Android device, your PC, your Mac, your Commodore 64, whatever.
2) Take some meaningful subject words from the email and go to Snopes.Com and/or Sophos Naked Security. Based on the information you find there (supplemented, if you like, with Google searches), you can tell the difference between an awesome new cup holder available on your PC being false and real security threats being true. For example, researchers from University of Indiana working with the US Navy say that they have created a malicious Android application, called PlaceRaider, that uses the phone’s embedded camera and other spatial sensors to create 3D visual maps of the owner’s home and other spaces.However, if you read the article further, you’ll learn this is a proof of concept malware application–they haven’t found it “in the wild” so chances of you being infected are not zero, but they’re not incredibly great, either, especially since now Android and those who make virus and anti-malware apps are aware and able to combat it.
3) Don’t panic. For example, What is your phone saying behind your back? is an article on Naked Security, and it turns out that there is the potential for some real vulnerability there. The solution? Read the article; then, research other articles on the same topic. Then take action based on your research, such as turning off Wifi when you leave the house. There are even programs–which I hope to cover in a future post–that can help you manage timed tasks on your phone, such as turning on Bluetooth every morning when you get in the car and turning it off after you’re at work to save your battery. Such a program could turn Wifi off every morning as you leave the house; alternately some Android phones support TecTile Programmable NFC Tags, so you could just touch your phone to the tag every day on your way out the door to turn off Wifi (and turn on Bluetooth or any other set of tasks). More on these options in a later post, but you get the gist: don’t panic. There are things you can do to protect yourself and the information on your phone.
4) As noted above, these types of warnings are supposed to scare you. The good ones want to provide incentive for you to take action so you don’t have to be afraid. The poorly written ones or the bad ones are there just to scare you and not be very productive. Don’t take the bait.
5) In the event you contract a piece of malware, spyware, etc., 99% of the time you have the ability to fix your device. Updating the anti-viral definitions on your Android device, downloading additional Anti-spyware/malware tracking, and/or factory resetting your device and restoring from your last good back up (available through a lot of good programs that also protect your device) are all things you can do yourself to recover. Worse to worse, you can take the Android device to your carrier or its manufacturer and pay for help; with my carrier, this help is often free. This is also the route I take when my mother calls having problems with her device; she lives a time zone away, so its easier for her to talk to someone face-to-face who can handle her phone or computer and resolve the problem. I also don’t end up on the phone for 2 hours asking her to describe the screen and then explaining “long press” versus “tapping.”
I like to keep up to date on security threats by monitoring forums and reports from Lookout Mobile Security, as well as subscribing on G+ and Facebook to Sophos/Naked Security. I check Snopes every once in a while, both to look at potential new threats ripping through the Internet, but also for fun–some of the things people think are real are bizarre and sometimes funny. I do it because I’m a tinkerer and I’m totally interested; you don’t have to do that and you can still have a safe Android device by running anti-viral software regularly and checking out any suspicious threats you hear about in a safe, calm, and productive way.
So there you go: there’s no NEED for crying in Android; there are a lot of excellent programs and built in ways to keep things safe and (mostly) under control. I can’t help with the swearing and the yelling — sometimes programs don’t work the way you think they should or you fat finger a contact, but for the most part, I hope this article has helped you to shed fewer tears.