Best Mobile Security and Privacy Apps

Category: Mobile , Privacy

The world has gone mobile, in case you hadn’t noticed. Smartphone unit shipments exceeded PC shipments way back in the 4th quarter of 2010, and there’s no going back. But there’s been a mass migration of hackers to the mobile terrain, too. Here's what you need to know about mobile security…

More Time on Mobile

Nielsen reported in 2013 that American adults spent an average of 34 hours per month accessing the Internet via smartphones, versus 27 hours for PCs. I'm sure both of those numbers are higher now, but the mobile number is certainly rising faster and faster.

The bad news is that hackers are going mobile as well. It’s not just because the most victims can be found on mobile devices. Google’s Android operating system, the most popular in the mobile world, is also the most vulnerable. That’s because open-source Android has been customized by dozens of vendors, creating a wealth of vulnerabilities that bad guys can exploit. According to Gartner Research, 97% of mobile malware is written for Android.

Mobile Privacy Apps

Apple fans face an alarming threatscape, too. Hundreds of malware apps have used the Wirelurker or Masque Attack vulnerabilities to bypass Apple’s app-security protocols. More recently, researchers were able to sneak password-stealing apps into the Apple Store. Dozens of other iOS security vulnerabilities are listed here.

Then there are government snoops, foreign and domestic. The FBI uses top-secret devices like Stingray to monitor mobile traffic all over the USA. And who really knows what the NSA is up to, or capable of doing, when it comes to mobile devices?

I'm not yet sold on the idea of installing anti-malware apps for Android or iPhone devices. Here's why: So far, all of the vulnerabilities of which I am aware are only exploitable if the user has intentionally disabled one or more security settings on the mobile device. The most common mistake is allowing apps to be installed from third-party app stores or untrusted app developers.

Mobile Privacy Apps

See my article Mobile Malware: No Big Deal? for details on how to stay safe when downloading apps, and where to get anti-malware protection for mobile devices.

Protecting your privacy is a separate issue. Here are six privacy apps and services for smartphones that will help keep your stored data safe and your communications private.

ChatSecure for iOS and Android is a free, open-source messaging app that can secure your Facebook communications, Google Talk, Jabber, and just about any messaging or conferencing service. It doesn’t just encrypt your messages, it makes it impossible to prove that you and another party even had a conversation.

Orbot for Android is a free proxy app that connects any other app that can use proxies to the Tor network of anonymous proxy servers. (See my article,
Free Tools For Anonymous Web Browsing.) With Orbot, you can visit a Web site without revealing anything about your browser; circumvent firewalls and filters that block access to certain sites; and exchange communications without fear of them being traced back to you.

Silent Circle is a rather pricey ($13 to $40 per month) subscription service aimed at enterprises. I wrote about its Blackphone, a Blackberry phone equipped with Silent Circle apps, in February, 2014. Now the apps are available without the Blackberry, for iOS and Android. All traffic is encrypted, and the company does not have the keys so it can’t give up your data to the government.

Signal by Open Whisper Systems is one of a few privacy apps endorsed by Edward Snowden. This free app enables high-quality video, picture, SMS, and group conferencing without fear of eavesdropping or subpoenas. (Like Silent Circle, Open Whisper never has the keys to your encrypted data.) Available for iOS and Android.

1Password is a password manager for desktop or mobile systems. There’s even an app for the Apple Watch. 1Password generates strong passwords and warns you when a user-created password is weak. Passwords stored in 1Password can be synced across multiple devices on different operating systems. 1Password 5 for iOS and 1Password 4 for Android are available as free downloads from their respective app stores. There are Pro features available for a one-time in-app purchase of $9.99, but the basic function of the app is completely free on mobile.

Are you using apps for mobile security or privacy? How concerned are you about these issues? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best Mobile Security and Privacy Apps"

Posted by:

07 Jul 2015

WOW.....Looks like there all kinds of ways for the terrorists to circumvent detection......
Good Job Brothers

Posted by:

07 Jul 2015

safeincloud has all of the features that 1password has and it is free for desktops and one time fee of $2.99 for mobile devices.

Posted by:

07 Jul 2015

Does use of a Blackberry device offer a person more protection than the other operating systems you mentioned?

Posted by:

08 Jul 2015

I have a Windows phone - a Lumia 520. Should I be concerned about hackers as well when accessing the internet from my phone, and if so, are there any apps available for Windows phone users?

Posted by:

09 Jul 2015

Hi Bob, I'm Megan and I work for AgileBits, the makers of 1Password.

I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to educate your users on the importance of security, and for including 1Password in your discussion!

In this day and age, it is so important that we all use strong and unique passwords for every site that we visit, and password managers can help make it much more convenient to be secure.

I just wanted to clarify one point about 1Password's pricing structure. 1Password 5 for iOS and 1Password 4 for Android are available as free downloads from their respective app stores. There are Pro features available for a one-time in-app purchase of $9.99, but the basic function of the app is completely free on mobile. The free 30 day trial and $50 license fee you mention applies to the desktop versions.

Keep sharing the secure word!

Megan O'Brien
Level 60 Support Sorceress at AgileBits

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