It's never been more important to keep your mobile life safe. That's why the Vodafone Protect, our security app for Android, is one of the best options out there...
“There are definitely lots of vulnerabilities out there,” says Vodafone Innovations’ Patrick Harrison-Harvey. He’s our resident expert on all things security, so we’ve been speaking to him about the latest version of Vodafone Protect, our all-encompassing smartphone security app.
Want peace of mind, better phone performance and the safety of desktop quality anti-virus tech in your smartphone? Here’s everything you need to know…
‘Find, lock and wipe’
“The Protect app is built specially for Android, says Patrick, “and there’s a couple of sides to it, with a free version and an ‘Advanced’ version.” We’ll get onto the Advanced version of the app soon, but first, what can Vodafone Protect do for your phone for free?
“There are lots of security and performance elements,” Patrick explains. “You’ve got ‘find, lock and wipe my phone’ features, as well as phone optimisers that tell you which apps are crunching your power, or which help you get rid of random temporary files – things that’ll help improve your battery life.”
Of those features, and one of the most useful when it comes to keeping your data safe, is the ability to find, lock and wipe your lost or stolen handset. If you think your phone’s been lost or stolen, the ability to remotely erase your personal info at the touch of a button is a really powerful tool:
“All you have to do is log in to the Vodafone Protect website, click on ‘Find my phone’ and it’ll search for your device using GPS – or it’ll give you its last known location if it’s been switched off. You’ll see on the map where it is, and if it’s near you in the house or at work, you can get it to make a noise to help you track it down.
“But if it’s somewhere completely unfamiliar and you realise you probably won’t be getting it back, then you can lock it and wipe all your data from it right from the website. The wipe process is instantaneous.”
From there, you can report your phone as being stolen to the police and tell them roughly where the phone is as well as give Vodafone a call on 191 to block your SIM, safe in the knowledge that no one can access your personal details, photos or contacts.
But if the phone is waiting for that ‘locate’ signal, does the app use a lot of battery?
“I’ve been tracking the app myself and it doesn’t have a significant impact on battery life or power,” Patrick assures us. “The phone isn’t constantly pinging its location – you request its location as and when you need to.”
“In the Advanced version we add full anti-virus software with malware protection,” Patrick says, “alongside protection from malicious website attacks. The way that works is that if you’re going to a site that our software knows/discovers is virus-laden or has intents of phishing for your info, it’ll warn you about it.
“The anti-virus side of things lets you do a full scan of everything inside your phone – after which it’ll highlight and let you delete anything dodgy – but it also has privacy options in there. It’ll tell you exactly which apps are doing what with your data, and what you’ve given your apps the right to do. It’s all really easy to decipher, and lets you assess whether you’re happy with each app’s setup. You can also use it to block numbers from calling or texting you.”
We’re talking to Patrick just after the Protect app has had a facelift – it’s been freshly updated with a host of new features…
“The update includes an unobtrusive widget – if you click on that a menu slides out with different functions on – you can click one button to free up your RAM, another to delete temporary files, or another to optimise the battery. And when you optimise the battery it won’t just shut down all your apps, it’ll be smarter than that, doing things like turning the brightness down, and killing apps you’ve not used in a while.
‘There’s real value in basic personal information…’
With the app talk wrapped up, we wanted to ask Patrick about the state of mobile security and its threats. What are the biggest dangers in 2015? And what do you need to know to keep your information out of people’s hands?
“Phishing is highly prominent at the moment,” he tells us. “There’s real value in basic personal information, and it’s actually quite easy to get. Info like your name and contact details can be sold to companies as marketing information. That’s why it’s so important you change your passwords for your online accounts regularly, and that you make them difficult to guess – that means using your date of birth or address is a big no-no.”
“The other thing we see a lot is where your phone is used send a text to a premium number in such a way that you wouldn’t know that it’s been sent. The only evidence of it is on your phone bill, but if the premium rate charge is low enough, most people won’t notice it pinging the same number once a month. And then there’s banking details, which are the ultimate prize for cyber criminals.”
The Vodafone Protect app will help keep you and your device safe from all of the above, which is good news, since Patrick believes cyber criminals are now much more interested in the data on our phones than what’s on our PCs:
“Most people don’t protect their phones because they think they’re safe, but it’s actually very easy to get tricked into sharing data.”
“Most people don’t protect their phones because they think they’re safe, but it’s actually very easy to get tricked into sharing data on a mobile. People tend to think about their PC as the thing that needs the most protection, but you’re probably logged into ten times more services on your phone, in most cases you remain logged in indefinitely and you are one your phone all the time which gives them more opportunities. So phones are a far more attractive proposition to a cyber-criminal than computers these days.
“Typically, the way that viruses get onto phones is through rogue apps, and it’s easy to get a rogue app published – there are people who’ll build these dodgy apps on demand. It’s an industry. With Android, if you’re buying through the legitimate Google Play Store, you should be relatively safe, but if people really want to get through the loopholes, they’ll do it.
“The whole game is about doing small-value bits of fraud,” he says in closing, “but doing them lots of times. If you can do some low-level attacks that won’t get noticed, then they won’t make the headlines, and no one can do anything about it. But the Vodafone Protect app’s entire job is to notice and protect you against them.”