About 1.6 million Americans were victims of smart phone theft in 2012, according to projections from Consumer Reports’ nationally representative survey of adult Internet users. And when your phone falls into someone else’s hands, you run the risk of having your privacy breached or your identity stolen.
But there are ways to protect yourself, and they don’t have to cost a lot. In fact, you can get plenty of protection free from mobile security software designed specifically for Android-based devices such as smart phones and tablets. These apps are available at the Google Play store.
We tested 15 of the apps, which can locate, lock, and erase your phone's data if it's stolen (or lost). Generally, you use your Web browser to locate a stolen phone via GPS and to erase the data it contains remotely. You can also lock the phone via a Web browser, or by sending a text message to your phone that will render it useless. Remember that once you wipe your phone, the data is permanently gone, so you should always be sure to back up the data on your mobile device before you run into any problems.
Even if your phone is never lost or stolen, these products also offer protection against other dangers. Although severe malware attacks remain a rarity in the smart phone world, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. To that end, all the products scan your mobile device for malware, usually checking apps you’ve downloaded, Web sites you visit, and memory cards. Many also have antispam features, and most of the products we recommend block malicious websites.
Here’s a closer look at the top three products we tested.