Staying Safe & Private on your Android Device

As the world of mobile phones continues to grow in size and sophistication, one would hope our means of securing privacy on these devices would grow in equal proportion. Unfortunately, it often seems the opposite is the case. We live in an increasingly visible, progressively surveilled world in which fears of government and corporate snooping have become more legitimate with each passing day.

New programs like AppFlash, for example, have raised concerns that, for the large mobile carriers, protecting their customers’ privacy is not always priority one. Even so, the typical Android owner might assume a level of safety when chatting on their phone that they would never assume when sitting down to their computer.

Be that as it may, the familiar adage “You can’t be too careful” has become as true for Android as for anything else.

Password Protection: One of the first lines of defense for most users is password protection. Using a solid password manager like LastPass, for instance, stores encrypted passwords in private accounts, and is a great way of keeping your most sensitive information on lock-down.

Anti-Virus: Downloading a quality anti-virus program is another wise security step to take. Generally speaking, if you’re just downloading apps from the Google play store you should be ok, but there’s no harm in adding a solid ant-virus to your android device.

As well as these apps/programs there’s a number of other practices you can implement, without need of any additional programs, that will seal your Droid tighter than a miniature Fort Knox.

Encryption: First, secure and encrypt your phone in the settings. This is a built-in no-brainer, and without it, your Droid is tantamount to an open book lying on the front counter of a bustling coffee shop.

App Permissions Second, always check the permission on your apps, and try to download as few apps as possible. (It’s possible that, if you’re a single person without so much as a pet fish, you don’t need TweetPee on your device.) Many simple apps e.g. flashlights require a bewildering amount of permissions. If an app’s permission needs are in an inverse proportion to the app’s complexity then something ‘fishy’ is probably going on in which case take a deeper look.

Lock your apps Third, remember to lock your apps once you have them.

Remote Wipe: Enable a remote wipe of your phone, in case it’s stolen. Thieves typically aren’t interested in pinching your Droid simply to pore over your vacation pictures. Remote wipe can be accessed via the android device manager which enables you to ring, lock or wipe the data on your android remotely.

So much for staying safe but these features won’t keep your android browsing private. That’s where a few handy tools come in. For your convenience, we’ve listed some of the best ones below.

DuckDuckGo: If you’re truly determined to keep your mobile activity private, swap out Google and opt instead for DuckDuckGo. Don’t expect a completely identical browsing experience, however -- category pages, zero-click information, simpler links, topic detection, ambiguous keyword detection, and far less spam are just some of the multiple features that distinguish DuckDuckGo from Google.

Telegram: There’s more than one reason so many mobile users are switching from WhatsApp to Telegram, and security is top of the list. Telegram offers end-to-end encryption for its messaging, while What’sapp has no privacy encryption whatsoever. This in addition to the host of other features Telegram offers explains much of the WhatsApp migration.

Proton Mail: End-to-end encryption, two passwords (one for logging in, the other for decrypting the mailbox), and emails that can self-destruct on a specified expiration date are three reasons many mobile users have bid Gmail farewell.

VPN: Sometimes there’s just no beating a virtual private network. Instead of communicating directly with a site from your android, a VPN routes your traffic via an intermediary server thus cloaking your browsing habits making it difficult although not impossible for somebody (your government?) to track your browsing back to your I.P and device. With a low barrier to entry there’s now tens if not hundreds of VPN providers, virtually all of whom offers android apps. Whilst on the surface they all offer the same product there are nuances between them with respect to protocol strength and log keeping, it pays to shop around to find a top VPN service.

Obviously, the tools and practices covered here are not meant to be all-inclusive. Keeping your OS and apps updated, using secure WiFi, setting up user accounts (if you share your phone), purchasing device insurance, and in general being careful with what information you share will go far in keeping your mobile activity private. Nothing is foolproof, but then you can never be too careful either.

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