15 Mobile Privacy and Security Apps
The post-Snowden age has seen a growing awareness about online privacy, as well as an explosion of interest in mobile privacy and security apps for everything from communication to anonymized browsing, ad-blocking, anti-tracking, and anti-virus tools. Check out 15 of our favorite mobile privacy and security apps below.
Signal (iOS) (Free)
Open Whisper Systems' Signal (Android, iOS) is a fantastic messaging solution for security-conscious mobile users. It is a free all-in-one messaging and voice-call solution that uses end-to-end encryption. You can send text messages, voice calls, group messages, media and attachments to your phone contacts, all without having to mess with PIN codes or special login credentials. Ease of use and strong, open-source, regularly audited encryption makes it a favorite of the security-conscious, with accolades from Edward Snowden and other privacy advocates. User-friendliness without compromising on security makes Signal a good option for users looking for an encrypted messaging and calling app.
Silent Phone (Android, iOS) ($9.95/month)
Silent Circle is a trusted provider of secure-communications software and hardware, such as the Blackphone, and it has also developed its own secure mobile-messaging platform. Silent Phone (Android, iOS) provides encrypted video and voice calls, as well as encrypted, self-destructing messaging and file transfers. Encryption keys are held by subscribers themselves, not by Silent Circle, so while your encrypted messages may pass through Silent Circle's network, the company can't read your data.
Wickr (Android, iOS)
Wickr Me (Android, iOS) is a free end-to-end encrypted-messaging app that allows users to send private, self-destructing messages (text, photo, video and voice) to other Wickr contacts. It takes user privacy seriously, using strong encryption and deleting metadata such as geotags and message times, and users can configure how long it takes for messages to self-destruct. A Secure Shredder included in the app even allows you to erase attached files, messages and other data to prevent recovery. There's also a $100,000 bug-bounty program for anyone who gets in touch with the company to point out a security flaw.
Telegram (Android, iOS)
Telegram Messenger (Android, iOS) is another, free secure-messaging app that targets even less tech-savvy users. Once you've linked a Telegram account to your phone number, you can use the app to send fast, encrypted chat messaging over the cloud, with client-server encryption for standard chats. A Secure Chat mode provides end-to-end encryption so that only you and your intended recipient can read it. You can even set messages to self-destruct. You can share videos, documents and participate in group chats of up to 200 users.
LastPass (Android, iOS)
A standout password manager on desktop, LastPass also features mobile support for subscribers to LastPass's premium service. The LastPass Premium app (Android, iOS, Windows) is a password vault, strong password generator and browser all rolled into a single mobile app. Users can sync their password vaults, and then have the LastPass browser automatically fill in forms and login details when surfing the Web and accessing sites, either through the in-app browser, Safari or Chrome. Users can also generate new passwords, as well as add or update their list of Form Fills, Sites and Secure Notes.
MORE: Best Password Managers
True Key (Android, iOS)
Intel Security's True Key (Android, iOS) has introduced some neat features to help it stand out from other password managers. True Key's got the usual password manager features, such as an encrypted password vault protected by a master password, as well as a password manager and encrypted notepad. Like other password managers, True Key can take advantage of a phone's fingerprint scanner, but in addition, it can also use turn your selfie camera into a biometric sensor so that you can log in with your face, which is a pretty neat feature. Free users have full feature access and can sync up to 15 different logins, with a premium subscription ($19.99) providing unlimited login synching.
SpiderOak (Android, iOS)
SpiderOak's (Android, iOS) main selling point is "zero-knowledge" private cloud storage. SpiderOak gives users end-to-end encryption; data both in transit and stored in SpiderOak's servers is fully encrypted and can be unlocked only with your password, which is not stored by SpiderOak. If anyone wanted to see your folders and data, he'd see only numbered containers and encrypted data. The free plan offers 2GB of storage; $10 per month provides 100GB extra, with even more available at higher prices.
OrBot, OrFox & ChatSecure (Android)
Users looking to access the Tor anonymizing network on mobile devices have a variety of good options to consider. On Android devices, the combination of OrBot and OrFox is a popular choice, with OrBot serving as a proxy connector app to the Tor network, while OrFox is a privacy-enhanced version of Firefox based on earlier work on the Guardian Project's OrWeb anonymized browser. Chatsecure also provides private Off The Record (OTR) encrypted chatting that you can also route through OrBot for additional security.
Onion Browser (iOS) ($0.99)
Onion Browser is an iOS mobile browser configured to let users easily connect to Tor's anonymizing system, allowing you to browse with Tor online. As with the Tor Browser Bundle for desktop, the Onion Browser trades speed for security, as mentioned in the iTunes description. User-agent spoofing lets you mask the hardware you're using, and cookie controls and rapid IP address are among the other features.
Avira Phantom VPN (Android, iOS)
VPNs or Virtual Private Networks can help users anonymize their online activity, hiding their IP address, encrypting data transmissions and bypassing region locks. With modern mobile OS's, you don't even need to tinker with root or jailbreaking to get their benefits. Avira's Phantom VPN (Android, iOS) is a freemium VPN service that allows free users to route up to 500MB of data monthly through their VPN, but a neat standout is that free users who register with their email address have that cap upped to a full gigabyte of data every month. Users can also subscribe for $54.99 per year to remove the data cap, as well as gain access to premium tech support. Ease of use and a generous free tier make it a good place to start for users looking for a mobile VPN.
Ghostery (Android, iOS)
Internet privacy add-on Ghostery is available on Android and iOS devices as an alternative browser. When in use, Ghostery (Android, iOS) allows users to view what it terms "the invisible web": trackers, web bugs and other means by which advertising networks and internet companies track and view your online habits. Ghostery then displays extra information about these ad networks, including links to their privacy policies and any opt-out options. It is also available as an extension for the Firefox Mobile browser.
Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus (Android)
If you need the best all-in-one mobile antivirus, backup and security toolkit, Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus is our top pick. Avast's tools are remarkably comprehensive, even on the free tier, with antivirus scans, a call and SMS blocker and a Privacy Advisor tool that highlights the data your apps request. A premium tier has advanced anti-theft features and data backup tools. Check out our in-depth review of Avast in our Best Android Antivirus Software article.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free (Android)
Another good option for an easy to use Android antivirus app is Bitdefender Antivirus Free, a free, standalone antivirus tool taken from Bitdefender's more comprehensive mobile security suite. The main appeal of Bitdefender Antivirus Free is its absolute simplicity and ease of use, with an Autopilot feature that automatically scans newly installed apps for suspicious activity. Of course, that simplicity is also its downside, as you'll need to look elsewhere for more comprehensive mobile security tools, such as in Bitdefender's own premium Mobile Security & Antivirus suite.
AdBlock Plus Mobile
Advertising keeps the free internet running, but it can also be intrusive and off-putting. Users looking to dodge mobile ads altogether can check out AdBluck Plus's offerings. The AdBlock Browser on Android provides users with a Firefox-based browser that automatically blocks incoming advertising without having to get down and dirty with root permissions like the previous AdBlock Plus Android app. On iOS the AdBlock Plus app integrates with iOS 9's content blocker system in order to seamlessly block advertising on Safari with minimal setup.
iOS 9 introduced new content-blocking features that let developers create a slew of mobile ad blockers for Safari on mobile without having to go through technical workarounds. Among the best of those available is 1Blocker, a powerful and highly configurable content blocker that comes preloaded with a wide array of ad-blocking rules and settings, while also providing users with the freedom to create their own content blocking rules. Users can easily block unsightly ads and social widgets with a flick of a switch, and users can also whitelist specific pages if they want to let content through.