Look at the person on your right. Now look at the person on your left. Chances are, two of you are using an Android phone. And since almost everything we do, from banking and shopping to online chatting and photo sharing, is now done on mobile devices, you might be wondering: “How can I boost the security and privacy of my phone?”
The most obvious answer would be to download the appropriate mobile applications. But given the countless entries available in the Google Play Store, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Not to worry, because ExpressVPN has done the heavy lifting for you and identified the 5 Essential Apps for Android Security and Privacy.
1. AppLock – Fingerprint for Phone Security
Everyone has a screen lock on their phone. Or at least everyone should have a screen lock on their phone. If you don’t, take a minute to set one up now.
So once you have a screen lock, why would you need an app lock? Well, while a screen lock can prevent others from accessing your data whilst it’s locked, there are still numerous situations when people can get a hold of your data without you knowing it. You might unlock your phone and hand it to a stranger so they can help you take a picture. Or you might have simply left your phone unlocked on a public cafe table. In these instances, all of your messages, pictures, and private information are at the mercy of opportunistic passersby.
AppLock – Fingerprint by SpSoft is a quality solution. It allows you to lock any app (including games, photos, your favorite social media apps, etc.) or system (Wi-Fi, Settings, etc.) and won’t grant access unless someone enters the correct password or supplies the right (i.e. your) fingerprint.
And although most app locks have similar features, AppLock – Fingerprint has a few bells and whistles that help it stand out from the pack:
- Remote lock control: Lock/unlock your phone by sending a keyword via SMS
- Display a fake “app has stopped” screen to dissuade intruders from trying to access your apps
- Take a photo of the intruder and send it to your email – perfect for crime reporting, public shaming, or dart practice!
2. Android Device Manager for Anti-Theft
While an app lock can prevent others from accessing your data, it does not help you locate a lost phone nor allow you to wipe all the data on it if needed. Given how common phone thefts are, you need to have a countermeasure at the ready.
Enter Google’s own Android Device Manager. This handy app allows you to ring your phone remotely, reset your device’s lock screen PIN, and shows you the time and place it was last located. And if you still can’t recover your phone, you can use the app to erase all of your data to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Simply use Android Device Manager’s Guest Mode on someone else’s device. Of course, they’ll first have to unlock the app for you!
3. DuckDuckGo Search & Stories for Private Search
Google is wonderful. We use their services to find information, watch our favorite videos, and communicate with each other. Heck, they even make awesome anti-theft apps for your phone. The problem is: they know way too much about you. Just from web searches alone, Google can construct a highly accurate profile of your age, gender, and various preferences. Unsurprisingly, they use this information to serve you highly targeted ads, which in turn feeds them more advertising dollars.
If you want a search engine that doesn’t track what you search, try DuckDuckGo Search & Stories. While the search service is also available on DuckDuckGo’s website, the app provides an even more mobile-friendly interface, includes a search bar widget that can be added to your home screen for quick access, and gathers news from various sources just like its peers.
4. Signal Private Messenger for Private Communication
Previously, ExpressVPN compared Whatsapp and Telegram – the two biggest players in the Instant Messaging arena – as well as a few of the other top IM contenders. But there’s one particular chat app that has been severely underappreciated: Open Whisper Systems’ Signal Private Messenger.
At first pass, there’s not much to distinguish Signal from its peers. It sports a clean-looking interface, allows you to chat with a friend or in a group, and has the usual media sharing features. So in light of the recent Whatsapp encryption upgrade, why would you want to get another IM app?
For starters, virtually everything about Signal is open-source. From its codebase to its encryption protocols, anyone can look inside Signal and make sure there’s no funny business going on. On the other hand, Whatsapp’s encryption still allows servers to see who’s sending a message to whom and at what time, while Telegram’s encryption standard is still closed-source.
Furthermore, what separates Signal from its peers is its funding model. Whatsapp is owned by Facebook, which makes its millions from selling ads. WeChat and Line make money from in-app purchases and providing official company accounts, which can get expensive in a hurry. Signal, by contrast, is supported by donations and grants. Since monetising users is not on their agenda, they are focused on delivering an uncluttered messaging experience and not on collecting your data.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
The one “caveat” is Signal’s user base. Whatsapp has a user base north of a billion people, while Telegram counts 100 million plus users across the globe. Signal comes in with just over one million users in total, so chances are your friends aren’t going to be on the platform. But hey, at least Snowden’s on it.
5. 360 Security – Antivirus Boost for Phone Protection
Few people would use their laptops or desktops (are they still a thing?) without an antivirus program. Surprisingly, just as few people seem to be worried about using their phones without similar protective measures. After all, your phone is also a (very advanced) computer, so installing an antivirus program on your mobile device is every bit as important as having one on your laptop or desktop (seriously, does anybody still use one?).
Of all the antivirus offerings available, few are as well-rounded as 360 Security – Antivirus Boost. First off, 360 Security checks all the boxes for a comprehensive antivirus solution, offering protection against malware, adware, trojan horses, and other Internet nasties. But in addition to the basics, 360 Security sports a handy junk file cleaner that helps free up phone memory, an easy-to-use battery saver, and a few extra security and anti-theft features. While these additional features may not rival what AppLock and Android Device Manager offer respectively, they are the cherry on top for what is already an excellent antivirus package.
Need further convincing? Of all the pure antivirus apps ExpressVPN reviewed, none had a combination of high ratings and usage numbers that could rival 360 Security. While some apps had slightly higher ratings (but a much smaller user base) and others had comparable download numbers (but lower ratings), 360 Security’s 100 million downloads and 4.6 rating puts it ahead of antivirus household names like McAfee (10 million, 4.4) and Norton (10 million, 4.5).
And Here’s a Bonus One…
A VPN lets you stay anonymous online, prevents others from intercepting information you share, helps you access the content you want, and saves you money while shopping. It truly is a multipurpose digital survival tool. The best part? ExpressVPN’s Android app gives you all of that – topped off with an easy-to-use interface and best-in-class customer support.
So do yourself a favor. Hit up the Google Play Store and download these five (plus one) useful apps. It’s a few minutes of download time for years of security and privacy – at least until you get a new phone!