Understanding How Android Works – Security


Continuing the series on how Android works next we’ll look at securing your phone or tablet and specifically at the ways users have to prevent unauthorised persons opening their devices. Business users like me have their entire contact list, calendar and email on their phones, so simply losing an unlocked device would mean a lot of work rapidly changing passwords.

I figure at least if the phone is locked it slows the thief down and in the event of them factory resetting the phone at least all my account information is safe as this gets deleted (only on the device).

Since the early days of Android, the operating system has had a  method to secure your device – the first, and very popular method is to use a Pattern Code. To set this up, just go to Settings – Security – Set Unlock Pattern. You repeat this twice to ensure you have it correct and from then on, whenever you power on (or wake up) your phone, you just trace the pattern out to unlock it. Note that there is an option to use a ‘visible pattern’ or not – this simply means that as you ‘draw’ the pattern it is displayed – or not. The second option obviously gives a little more security if someone is watching over your shoulder!

One thing that I and others have noticed though is this – after drawing the pattern with sweaty fingertips (happens to us all, we’re messy creatures aren’t we?) the pattern on the screen can be clearly seen if you tilt the device to the side slightly when turned off…

For better security then, you need to move up to a better system like a PIN or password. This is available in later Android versions and you simply set a PIN (numeric only) or password (alphanumeric). Ensure that you don’t forget it of course as the only (easy way – there are ‘hacks’ but this requires some technical abilities to achieve) to reset this and get access to the phone is to do a factory reset which means you lose all your apps and settings.

Finally, a quicker method of unlocking your phone or tablet IF you have a front-facing camera – is to use ‘Face Lock’. This was first introduced in Android version 4.0 (or Ice Cream Sandwich) and you simply look at the camera a couple of times when setting it up and then to unlock your device you just turn it on and look at it.


In Jelly Bean they made it more secure by adding something called ‘Liveness Check’ which requires an eye blink to confirm that the camera is actually seeing a live person not a photo of you! I wouldn’t suggest that you pull a funny face like this chap though…

If you want my opinion, I reckon the simplest and most secure method is the password one as I’ve tried Face Lock and unless I am in a well lit room and hold my head very still, it reverts to the password screen after it tries unsuccessfully to match my face.

In a later post I’ll go over anti-theft measures you can use and review anti-malware software.



Andy on Facebook
About the Author : Andy describes himself as "an older geek" and has been assisting seniors with understanding technology for many years. He is involved with his local seniors computer club and believes that seniors appreciate assistance from those of a similar age group.

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Thanks, Andy
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