Security optimize

Set up avast! Anti-Theft on an Android phone

Find out why Jack Wallen recommends the free avast! Mobile Security application for your Android phone.

We lose things, including costly smartphones. But when we lose a smartphone, we lose more than just a handset -- we lose data and information we most certainly do not want out in the public. For some businesses, Exchange can be set up do to a wipe; but for those that don't have that option, what do you do?

Well, AVAST Software has a solution tucked inside the avast! Mobile Security application. Within avast!, there's an Anti-Theft system that's well designed and works like a champ. If your Android device is lost or stolen, avast! can help you in the following ways:

  • Lock your phone
  • Erase all data
  • Sound a siren
  • Deny program manager access
  • Deny phone setting access
  • Receive SMS with the new phone number and phone location

These actions will take place if the SIM card is changed or the device is marked as lost.

Now, let’s take a look at how to install and use this system. I will demonstrate on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S III, but the software should install fine on most Android devices.

Installation

The installation of the software is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store
  2. Search for "avast" (no quotes)
  3. Tap on the avast! Mobile Security entry
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept & download

When you open the app, you'll be prompted to accept to the license agreement.

Now, you can continue with the setup process. This requires that you enable the installation of Non-Market apps in your system security settings. You'll also be prompted to enter avast! account credentials or create a new account, which you can elect to complete at a later time.

[Note: At this time, the application will update the virus definitions. After the definitions are updated, a scan might begin (it did on the HTC Incredible 4 and Motorola Droid Razr, but not on the Samsung Galaxy S III).]

Follow these steps to complete the set up of avast! Mobile Security:

Step 1: Anti-Theft configurations

From the main avast! page, click Anti-Theft, and then tap continue. Select Easy Installation Mode, as the Advanced Installation Mode installs avast! as a rooted installation. Once you tap this, avast! will download the customized installation package. After the download completes, tap Install and then Install again. When the installation is complete, click Done.

After this is complete, there is one more step for the Anti-Theft system. You must set up Anti-Theft as the device administrator. Tap the Setting button and then

Step 2: Activate device admin

The next screen that appears prompts you to set Anti-Theft as a device administrator. If you're not concerned with being able to remotely wipe the phone, don't bother enabling this feature. However, if you do want this ability, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Setting button
  2. Click Ok
  3. Tap the Activate button (Figure A)
  4. Click Ok
Figure A

You must activate avast! Anti-Theft as a device admin to be able to remotely wipe the phone.
Step 3: Set up basic settings

From within the Set up basic settings window, click through and fill out the information for the following sections:

  • Your name
  • avast! PIN (this includes the Recovery phone number)
  • Remote control (without setting at least one friend who's allowed to send SMS notifications, you can't remotely control your phone)
Next, tap the box next to Enable Anti-Theft (Figure B). Click Yes to continue, and then Ok. Figure B

When you enable this feature, it will go into stealth mode and will not be visible.

With Anti-Theft enabled, avast! will hide the Anti-Theft feature from the Android app launcher. In order to access Anti-Theft when in stealth mode, you must open up your phone app and dial the avast! PIN you set up in the basic settings window. Once you've done that, Anti-Theft will be visible until a phone reboot.

Step 4: Set up advanced settings From the Anti-Theft window, tap Set up advanced settings to enable various protection behaviors (Figure C). Figure C

Here you can prevent actions from occurring when you set your phone to lost mode.
The first thing you should do here is tap Protection behavior. In this new window (Figure D), you can set:
  • Lock phone
  • Sound siren
  • Deny program manager access
  • Deny phone setting access
  • Low battery notification
Figure D

All options are enable/disable.

Once you've taken care of the Protection behavior, go back to the Advanced Settings window and configure the rest of the settings that you want to enable.

Step 5: Usage

Now that you've set this up, how do you use it? If you lose your Android mobile (or you know it was stolen), send an SMS (text) to your number (of the stolen/lost device). The available codes you can send are listed below. All commands must begin with the avast! PIN that you set up. For example, if the PIN you created is 1234, here are the commands you can send:

  • 1234 LOCK: Lock the device
  • 1234 LOST: Set the phone to "lost" mode
  • 1234 FOUND: Unset "lost" mode
  • 1234 UNLOCK: Unlock the phone
  • 1234 MESSAGE <message>: The <message> is the message you want to send to whoever has your phone
  • 1234 SIREN ON: Turn the siren sound on
  • 1234 SIREN OFF: Turn off the siren sound
  • 1234 LOCATE: Locates the device
  • 1234 LOCATE <interval>: Continuously tracks device for <interval> minutes
  • 1234 LOCATE STOP: Stop tracking
  • 1234 CALL <phone number>: Use the phone to call a number
  • 1234 FORWARD SMS <phone number>: Forward all text messages to a new number
  • 1234 FORWARD SMS STOP: Stop forwarding text messages
  • 1234 CC SMS <phone number>: CC all SMS messages to a new number
  • 1234 CC SMS STOP: Stop CC'ing texts
  • 1234 CC CALLS <phone number>: Forward all incoming calls to a specified phone number
  • 1234 CC CALLS STOP: Stop forwarding calls
  • 1234 CC ALL <phone number>: Forward both SMS and phone calls
  • 1234 CC ALL STOP: Stop forwarding all
  • 1234 WIPE: Wipe the phone
  • 1234 GET <number> SMS: The <number> is a numerical value of SMS messages
  • 1234 GET <number> SENT SMS: Gets the last <number> of send text messages
  • 1234 GET CONTACTS: Gets the contacts from the address book

There are a few more commands that can be sent, but the above should cover everything.

The avast! Anti-Theft system is a great way to help you retrieve your lost phone or, at least, keep unwanted eyes from seeing your important data. Give this system a try, and see if it isn't exactly what you need to keep your information secure.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

11 comments
Methos1979
Methos1979

This seems like a great feature of a great program but when trying to install and use this feature the phone prompts you to uninstall a Verizon program that it won't let you uninstall. Once again Verizon has gummed up the works with it's useless bloatware. Unless you have a rooted phone you will be unable to install and use the excellent Avast! Anti-theft feature.

nepper
nepper

My Junos Pulse antivirus identified Avast as spyware?

sathsihds86
sathsihds86

This app works awesome but what happens if the stealer removes the SIM card ?? is there any alternate way to lock the mobile rather sending SMS commands ?????

woohoothumberlina
woohoothumberlina

my son had this on his phone and i was the phone set up to activate it, one day innocently i sent him a text telling him i had stolen his cola from the fridge with a lol suddenly his phone went into melt down and he couldnt access the phone with the pin he had to turn the phone off because of the loud siren. a 450 quid phone rendered useless because of an innocent text message......it should be harder to activate than a normal text...there should be a code attached for it to be of any use......now removed from phone !!!!!

nepper
nepper

I'm currently using the free version of Lookout, which allows me to locate the phone, or make it scream, but to lock and wipe data requires a $ upgrade. It also provides a security service which I don't use because my employer provides a mandatory tool (Junos Pulse) for my "BYOD" phone. The free version also backs up my contacts, but nothing else. Does Avast back up anything?

nhoeller
nhoeller

avast! now has a web portal that interfaces with the mobile application. I first became aware of it as a result of upgrades to the anti-theft component. It turns out that I needed to upgrade the base application first before I could access the web portal functionality. The portal supports multiple devices. It provides an easy way to send the various commands, an overview of the settings, activity logs and a locator map once the device has been located. Rather than communicating with the device via SMS, the web portal appears to use the Internet. Although I have been able to do some successful tests, SMS still seems to be more reliable. It does mean that avast can now support devices (such as tablets) that do not have SMS capabilities.

fgeck
fgeck

Just curious, what stops anyone from sending a text message with any one of these commands? A 4 digit pin is not all that secure lol. And if I enable wipe well???.. Anyone have the trust of this SW to give it the authority to wipe your device? Not me. lol

Cal-MI
Cal-MI

Pesonally, I just set my phone security to require anyone using it to turn it on with a specific swipe. I could also have required a password. Supposedly that renders the phone useless by any stranger.

keithbruce
keithbruce

I use this on my PC and prefer the window version over the other free AVs out there. I installed this application and it kept rebooting my android phone... the motorola triumph. While in the middle of deciding which 3rd party app to choose for our company's antivirus solution, i decided to check out Avast's help. What a let down. Avast didn't really give a flying $h!7 that it caused my phone to keep rebooting and did not troubleshoot at all stating that this is the only report and it must be your phone causing the issue. Needless to say, Avast agent Werner Mayr gave me an easy choice not to purchase Avast as our corporate solution base on the lack of willingness to help. I actually congratulated them in becoming the new norton/symantec (you choose which name you prefer). I now use Look out mobile security.

nhoeller
nhoeller

@fgeck, Mobile avast! allows you to restrict what phone numbers can send SMS commands to the device.