Your no-fuss, fail-safe guide to protecting Android devices

Anndrew Vacca

Passwords. You might not think of password protection as a powerful security tool, but it is. In reality, setting up a password on your mobile device is often the most effective yet overlooked way to protect your device from external threat. For the small-time crook looking for valuable personal data like bank accounts, contacts, and call logs, the prospect of cracking a device password is often enough to convince them to move on to easier targets.

Setting up a password on your Android device is simple: Go to the Settings app and navigate to the Security section. There, you'll be able to initiate a password lock with varying levels of security using the Screen Lock option:

Face Unlock made waves when it was first introduced in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Set it up by snapping a photo of yourself in the Settings app. To unlock your device, look into your camera for facial verification. But be aware that a spy can unlock your device simply by showing it a photograph of your face. Despite its cool factor, Face Unlock remains one of the least effective ways to protect your device.

Pattern Lock offers significantly more security. Simply connect the dots by tracing a pattern with your finger on a three-by-three grid to set your pattern password. Draw this pattern to unlock your device.

PIN and Password lock offer the highest level of protection. You can use a four-digit numeric PIN or a password of any length and complexity to unlock your device. As a general rule of thumb, the more complex the password, the better protected your device.

Encryption. Setting up a password is effective for protecting your device from a physical breach, but it can be less effective when it comes to a remote breach. For those with sensitive data on their devices such as work documents and confidential message logs, data encryption adds a valuable layer of security; even if a thief gets your device's data such as through a spyware app, the stolen data remains protected.

To encrypt your device, open the Settings app and head to its Security settings. You'll find the Encrypt Device option there. Plug your device into power or ensure the battery is at least 80 percent charged -- Android can't encrypt your device if there's not enough power to ensure it can run through the process, which can take 30 to 60 minutes. You'll be asked to set up a PIN or password, which doesn't have to be the same as your lock password.

Once your device is encrypted, it will remain so until it's permanently wiped or you disable encryption. You'll have to enter the encryption PIN or password each time you power on the device, but not to wake it from sleep. If you also have a password lock, you'll enter that as well in a separate step.

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