If you’ve been snooping around your Android settings menu lately, then you may have noticed a section that allows you to choose which type of lock screen system to use. By default, most Android devices feature a simple swipe unlock command.
However, simply swiping your finger across the screen isn’t an effective form of security. In fact, it can’t really be considered a form of security at all. If you want to safeguard your Android from snooping eyes and protect it from theft, then you’ll want to choose a new unlocking method.
How to change the unlock screen
Changing the unlock screen is fairly straightforward. Simply head to the Settings menu, then look for the Location and Security option. Under this option, you’ll see a section called Screen unlock settings. Tap Change screen lock in order to change that setting.
At this point, you’ll have to enter whatever security command you’re currently using – whether it’s a PIN, unlock pattern, or password. Once you’ve done that, you can choose which type of security you want to implement next. You can choose from one of the following four options:
Patterns are by far the coolest way to unlock your Android. Patterns take advantage of Android’s touch-screen capabilities. You might draw a smiley face, for example, or write out your initials. Although patterns are undeniably cool, they’re far from secure. If you use gestures to unlock your phone, then your fingers will start leaving tracks of residue across the screen where those gestures take place. Somebody can look at your phone, figure out the gesture you’re using, and then enter that gesture to gain access to your information. It’s also easy for somebody looking over your shoulder to see which gesture you’re using, and even a lucky guess can expose your phone to the world.
PINs are the most popular type of Android security system. Entering a four digit PIN is easier than a full alphanumeric password, and most people can enter a PIN in a fraction of the time it takes to enter a password. However, PINs are not a perfect security system. A watchful eye looking over your shoulder can see which keys you tap on the number pad, for example. And, to make matters worse, many people use the same four-digit PIN for their bank accounts, in which case your PIN presents a considerable risk.
Passwords are the most secure type of security for Android devices – but only if you choose the right password. Try to think of a word known only to you. Ideally, this word will be gibberish to most people, and it will contain special characters or capitals somewhere. If you can do this, then gaining unauthorized access to your Android will be extremely difficult. Of course, the problem with passwords like this is that they can take a long time to enter.
No unlock system
Since this is an article about the security of various Android unlock systems, we recommend that you avoid choosing the ‘no password’ option. With this option, unlocking your phone simply requires you to press a button along the side of the case. If you don’t care about the information you have on your phone, or if you have never lost a phone before, then you might consider choosing this option. Otherwise, it’s a very bad idea – especially if you have an attractive new Android phone that is prone to theft.
One thing to remember
Bypassing smartphone security isn’t easy, so be sure to remember whatever security system you’ve chosen. Write down your PIN or password and place it in a secure location. Otherwise, you risk losing access your device forever.
Well, not forever. There are ways to circumvent unlock security, although they involve drastic measures. You might lose all of your personal information, for example, and have to restore your phone to factory settings.
Which security system is right for you?
When you implement unlock screens like the ones listed above, you make using Android slightly less convenient. Instead of simply swiping your finger across the screen every time you need to use your device, you have to manually type out a password or enter a PIN. This can be annoying and time-consuming, especially if you’re in a rush to use your device.
In short, Android security is a trade-off – you spend a few extra seconds typing in your password in exchange for a security system that is virtually unbreakable. Just think of the information someone could get access to if they opened up your phone, and think of the damage they could cause with that information.
But for those who are willing to trade convenience for security, the unlock systems listed above will help. Remember: taking half a second longer to unlock your phone can be the difference between having your identity stolen and protecting your personal files.