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Security to go: Three tips to keep your mobile data safe

Ian Paul | Oct. 16, 2013
Data security is never easy, and security with mobile devices is no exception. Here are a few steps to meaningfully improve your mobile security

Nearly two years later, however, the usefulness of many free solutions has improved dramatically. During its most recent look at Android security apps in July, well-known security apps for Android, including those from Avast, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Lookout, and TrustGo all earned high marks from AV-Test. The lowest score in that group went to Lookout, which still earned an impressive 98.6 percent detection rating.

Besides antivirus and malware scanning, security apps for Android also offer a full

security suite with features such as device location, remote wipe, backup, and suspicious-URL blocking. These extra features usually require a premium subscription, but most apps offer minimal protection for free, including malware scanning.

Even if you do pay for the full security experience, there's only so much an app can do. It can't stop a thief from nabbing your device, for example, or prevent a thief from raiding your phone's data if you didn't use a screen lock. However, a security app's backup features can save your data if it's not automatically backed up to Google. And remote lock and wipe features can prevent a thief from getting in even after your device is stolen.

Google also offers remote wipe and lock for free for Android users running a device with Android 2.3 and up, via the Web-based device manager.

Security apps for Android may have come a long way in the past couple of years, but they still have room to improve. In March, researchers at Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina showed that they were able to build a piece of malware that Android security apps couldn't detect, Network World reported.

Crossing borders
You might think that the minute you land at JFK from a trip overseas that your rights are immediately protected under the U.S. Constitution, but you'd be wrong. Special rules apply at border crossings into the United States, as well as other countries, that give border agents leeway to interrogate you and search your belongings. That includes confiscating any mobile devices and laptops you might have with you or copying their contents.

While these laws are primarily meant to deter terrorism, they've also been used to pull aside activists like Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher and member of the TOR project, and journalists like NPR's Sarah Abdurrahman. Wind up on the wrong list, and you could be, too.

You can't do much to prevent yourself from being interrogated, but you can protect your data from being nabbed by an agent and downloaded into some massive data silo in the Utah desert. The Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests an interesting option: Leave the hard drive at home and boot your laptop from an SD card.


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