We think of viruses and malware being something you get on a computer - but what about your phone? We explain how to make your phone or tablet more secure
It depends on whether you've got an Apple or an Android tablet or smartphone. But remember that a tablet or phone is basically a computer, after all: you can still open emails that potentially lead to scam phishing sites, click on risky links, or install sketchy apps that may attempt to harvest your data.
Ready to protect your phone or tablet? Read our reviews of the best mobile security apps
Do iPads and iPhones need security apps?
Apple iPhones and iPads don’t tend to fall prey to viruses. But you can still be vulnerable to scam websites and the risk of a lost or stolen device. Security apps can help in these circumstances.
Do Android phones and tablets need security apps?
If you use an Android phone or tablet, it’s worth installing an app to protect yourself. The Android operating system isn’t quite as secure as Apple iOS, since you can install apps from non-official sources. Phishing scams and lost devices are extra risks.
Below, we explain the main types of risk for tablet or phone users, and how a mobile security app can protect you against such threats.
Viruses on tablets and smartphones
Compared to using a laptop or desktop, your chances of contracting a virus on a phone or tablet are small. For virus-writers, traditional computers are an easier target. There are far easier ways for scammers to distribute viruses for Windows PCs, in particular. But no computer system is totally virus-proof.
Google and Apple each release patches and software updates to combat potential security risks. It’s important to keep your device up to date to ensure you’re protected. A security app can help, too – particularly if you use an Android phone or tablet.
Dodgy app downloads
On a traditional computer, downloading an unsecured program can install viruses onto your machine or give a backdoor for scammers to lift your details. While this is technically possible on a tablet or phone, the risks are extremely small in practice.
Want some more help with your tablet or smartphone? Our friendly tech team can help you with one-to-one support on a range of tech issues. Find out more here.
That’s because Apple and Google actively vet their respective app stores and check that apps are safe to use. Apple has always done so, though Google didn’t initially. On Android devices, you can change your settings to install apps from stores other than the official Google Play store, but we wouldn’t recommend doing this.
A phishing scam emulates a trustworthy brand or website to encourage you to fill in your personal or financial details, or hand over your password. It’s a common scam used against desktop or laptop users, but mobile users can fall for it, too.
Follow a link in an unsolicited email that appears to come from a trusted source and you could find yourself on a phishing site. Fortunately, good security apps are designed to spot such threats. They should prevent you from opening the site at all, or at least display a prominent warning message.
Lost tablets and smartphones
Left on a train, dropped from your pocket or stolen from your bag – there are plenty of ways to lose a phone or tablet. These devices can contain reams of personal information and private photos you’d hate to fall into the wrong hands.
It’s essential to keep your device locked with a password. But beyond this, a security app can help. Some apps boost the ‘lost device’ options offered by Google or Apple. They give you options for remotely wiping your device, emitting a warning if someone tries to access it, or even photographing the person trying to use it.