October 22, 2020

Is it Safe to Use a VPN on Android?

VPNs are Safe on Android

Using a VPN (a virtual private network) on an Android device is safe. However, you need to choose a trustworthy app, like Surfshark VPN for Android. Since a premium VPN for Android has the same architecture and safeguards as its desktop version, the VPN has the same benefits in maintaining privacy and accessing locked content as its desktop version.

An Android VPN, however, is not a malware detector. It will not protect the user against the careless downloading of infected apps or clicking on links to scam websites. A VPN needs to be an online security consciousness element and an important protective tool against Wi-Fi-based intruders.

While Android Is Quite Secure, Other Dangers Exist

Android has its own built-in security measures. Deploying third-party Android security software actually duplicates that built-in protection. Nevertheless, according to a recent Microsoft.com security blog, their technicians recently uncovered a “piece of a particularly sophisticated Android ransomware with novel techniques and behavior.” That development is an example of “the rapid evolution of mobile threats…(that) has been evolving non-stop.”

The Android ransomware is being spread to buy unsecured websites and online forums with various social engineering lures. The malware masquerades as apps, infected games, or online video players. It is advanced and has had success in evading available protections. It does, rather than encrypting files, insert a ransom note screen over every other window on the device with instructions on how to pay the ransom.

Fortunately, anyone being victimized by Android malware would have difficulty infecting the organization’s network. Traditional computer viruses don’t work on the Android operating system.

Dangers of Android non-Wi-Fi Data Breaches

Confidential Data Breaches

Android device users who send confidential company files to a public cloud storage service or just accidentally past confidential or personal information into an unsecured email, for example, can be the source of catastrophic and costly compromises. If the data consists of private personal or medical information, statutory fines and a host of administrative sanctions can ruin the organization’s reputation.

Social Engineering

An email phishing scam does not rely on intrusive malware. Scammers leverage the user’s curiosity and gullibility of people who are constantly reacting to chiming notifications on their smartphones. In fact, the overwhelming majority of cyber-crime originates with contaminated email.

Out-of-date and Aging Android Devices

Android devices don’t receive timely software updates or the quick operating system patches that Windows and macOS users get. When a device ages past its ability to run the latest Android version, it remains vulnerable to hacking. Also, Android-driven gadgets on the Internet of things consist of controllers and devices that are not designed for upgrades.

Password Vulnerabilities

Many Android users still do not secure their accounts properly. Many workers carry Android smartphones with company accounts using personal sign-ins. A Harris Poll survey found that more than 50% of the respondents employ the same password over multiple accounts. The majority (75%) don’t use a password manager with automatic strong password generators. Many passwords are easy to guess if the hacker follows the victim on social media.

Wi-Fi Breaches and MITM Vulnerability

Android smartphones, though difficult to crack, are only as secure as the networks they connect to. The networks receive and transmit the data, and if they are unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, whatever travel through them can be intercepted through a MITM (man-in-the-middle attack).

Wi-Fi provides a “free ride” and a way to bypass cellular data costs for Android devices. Corporate mobile devices unsurprisingly take advantage of Wi-Fi three times as much as using cellular data.

Taking full advantage of most users’ penchant to sign in for free are all those free public Wi-Fi networks. Unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots are ideal environments for hackers to capture Wi-Fi signals of nearby unsuspecting victims. Those hackers employ various smart and technically sophisticated subterfuges to get “in the middle” of the user’s online activity to steal, compromise, and install malware.

An Android VPN is the first line of defense in Wi-Fi attacks.

How the VPN Protects Android Users

Location Masking

A premium Android VPN, like Surfshark, is a safe, secure, and encrypted connection to the Internet. The encryption foils would-be hackers, who cannot detect the user’s location or intercept the data to and from third parties. Android users who frequently connect to Wi-Fi should install a mobile VPN and never connect to the Internet through a public network unless the VPN is active.

Bypassing geo-blocking

A premium VPN routes users to out-of-area servers, often far away from their original location. That provides the user access to local streaming services, pricing, and ads that might not be available at the user’s location. VPNs also bypass government censorship.

Avoid Free Android VPNs

Shopping around for a free Android VPN in Google’s Play Store is risky. According to VPNCrew, “a big percentage of (the free VPNs) are known to have security problems and other disadvantages,” to wit:

  • The free Android VPN provider typically sells user data to advertisers, who can pepper the device with targeted ads.
  • The user’s browsing sessions and VPN connections on a free service are subject to third-party monitoring.
  • The free Android VPN app could come with spyware that returns the user’s data to third-party services.
  • The free Android VPN could be subject to data leaks that compromise connection privacy.
  • Free Android VPNs have weaker encryption standards making the connection more vulnerable to hacking.

Of course, some free VPNs are safer than others, but each one is essentially a stripped-down version of the premium features that a subscription service like Surfshark provides. They remain free through ads and other user exploits, which in some cases actually results in compromising the user’s security and privacy.

Summary and Conclusions

  • Android’s operating system is difficult to hack, except when running through a Wi-Fi connection.
  • Nevertheless, there are security threats to Androids through social engineering—e.g., phishing, cloud data compromises, etc.–that require caution and security consciousness.
  • Android smartphones can be compromised through MITM attacks at unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • A mobile VPN can protect online privacy and mask the user’s location.
  • An Android VPN has other benefits, such as bypassing geo-blocking.
  • Android users who connect to Wi-Fi services should install a premium VPN like Surfshark.
  • Avoid free Android VPNs. For a few dollars a month, a premium provides total coverage and absolute privacy and security.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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