March 08, 2011, 3:15 PM — Google's Android Market mobile software shop was hit last week with its first major malware attack; a popular application called "DroidDream" proved to be infected with malicious code that could steal users' personal information, and Google was forced to use a built-in Android "kill-switch" to do away with the problematic app--but not until after it had already infiltrated thousands of Android smartphones.
The Google Android platform has never been more popular; in fact, Android now holds a commanding 31% of the U.S. smartphone market share, making it the most popular smartphone OS in the country, according to ComScore.
Slideshow: 8 Essential Android Security Apps
Android has also never before represented such a significant target for hackers and other baddies looking to profit off of the platform's popularity. In other words, now is the time to get smart about Google Android security. The following six tips and tricks will help do just that.
1) Protect Your Android with a Password--Now!
The single most effective security measure you can take to protect your Android device is to lock it with a password. It sounds simple, but a strong password--or even a weak one--will protect you and your smartphone from the vast majority of threats; if a malicious party can't get past your password screen, your data and everything else on-device is generally secure.
Depending on the model of your Android smartphone, you'll have a variety of password options, but they're all accessed in mainly the same way. Open up your Android Settings menu and scroll down to the section called Location & Security Settings or something similar. First, enable Screen Unlock Security and you'll then be presented with a number of password options, depending on your device.
For example, my Motorola Atrix 4G provides password options for a Pattern Lock, for which you can set a specific "swipe pattern" to unlock your device; a PIN Lock that uses numbers to secure your handheld; a Password Lock, for which you can employ both letters and numbers; and finally, a biometric-based Fingerprints Lock that employs the Atrix's fingerprint reader for authentication.