The Best Privacy and Security Apps for Android

Secure your messages, phone calls, and personal data

Mobile security
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There is one object in your life that, although barely larger than a playing card, holds a huge amount of information that could, if accessed by the wrong person, lead to devastating consequences, including anything from mild embarrassment to financial catastrophe. The object we're talking about is, of course, your smartphone. Because it holds so much power, it's essential that you protect it from prying eyes.

Hackers and stalkers can intrude into your private business via your email account, text messages, files, browser history, and photos. Given the many security breaches reported in the news in recent years, it's more important than ever to keep your data safe.

Below is a list of mobile apps specifically for Android that you should consider downloading to keep your communications, browsing history, data, and other private information safe and secure.

You should download these apps from a reputable source such as the Google Play Store.

All of the apps below should be equally available no matter which company makes your Android phone, including Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Messaging, Email, and Voice Calls

For maximum security when communicating with your phone, end-to-end encryption is key. Encrypting a message means that only the sender and receiver can read it; not even the messaging company itself can view its contents.

No matter how secure your apps, though, your device is still susceptible to hack or theft, so take other precautions such as installing a virtual private network (VPN), keeping a close eye on your phone, and using the Android Device Manager to track or brick your phone in case of loss or theft. Here are some messaging, email, and voice call apps to consider as well.

Signal

Signal Private Messenger uses end-to-end encryption to keep your messages and voice chats private. It doesn't require an account; you can activate it via text message. Once you have the app set up, you can import the messages stored on your phone. You can also use Signal to exchange unencrypted messages or voice calls with non-Signal users, so you don't have to toggle between apps. Signal is free with no ads.

Signal texts and calls use data, so be mindful of your data limits and use Wi-Fi (with a VPN) when possible.

Telegram

Telegram works similarly to Signal but offers some extra features including stickers and GIFs. There are no ads in the app, and it's completely free. You can use Telegram on multiple devices, although only on one phone. All messages on Telegram are encrypted, but you can choose to store them in the cloud or make them accessible only on the device that sent or received the messages. The latter feature is called Secret Chats, which can be programmed to self-destruct. Unlike Signal, Telegram doesn't allow you to send messages to non-users.

Wickr Me

Wickr Me also offers end-to-end encrypted text, video, and picture messaging, as well as voice chat. It includes fun stickers, graffiti, and photo filters. It has a shredder feature that permanently removes all deleted messages, images, and video from your device. Like Signal and Telegram, Wickr Me is cost- and ad-free.

ProtonMail

An email service based in Switzerland, ProtonMail requires two passwords, one to log in to your account and the other to encrypt and decrypt your messages. Encrypted data is stored on the company's servers, which are housed under 1,000 meters of granite rock in a bunker. The free version of ProtonMail includes 500 MB of storage and 150 messages per day. The premium ProtonPlus plan bumps up the storage to 5 GB and the message allotment to 300 per hour or 1,000 per day and the ProtonMail Visionary plan offers 20 GB of storage and unlimited messages.

Silent Phone - Private Calls

If you regularly use your phone as a phone, you'll want to ensure your calls have the same level of protection as your texts and emails. Silent Phone encrypts your phone calls, offers secure file sharing, and has a self-destruct feature for text messages. A paid subscription includes unlimited calls and messages.

Browsers and VPN

Your browsing habits can also be a target for cybercriminals. The following tools can help you stay secure.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a search engine with a duck for a mascot and a twist: it doesn't track your search activity or target ads to you based on your data. The downside to the search engine not collecting information about you is that search results aren't as tailored as Google's. It comes down to choosing between customization and privacy.

Tor

The Tor browser protects your privacy by preventing websites from identifying your location and individuals from tracking the sites you visit. To use Tor, you need an accompanying app such as OrBot to encrypt your internet traffic.

Ghostery

Say you checked out a pair of sneakers on Amazon, but didn't buy them. Now you see ads for those very same sneakers on every site you visit, as though they're a ghost following you around. Ghostery minimizes the access to your data used by the ad trackers that enable this process. You can view the trackers and block any you're not comfortable with. The app also allows you to quickly clear your cookies and cache (which further helps to minimize the "ghost factor") and you can choose from eight search engines, including DuckDuckGo.

Avira Phantom VPN and NordVPN

Open Wi-Fi connections, such as those offered at coffee shops and public places are vulnerable to hackers who can tunnel in and capture your private information. A VPN, such as Avira Phantom VPN or NordVPN, encrypts your connection and your location to keep snoops out.

Avira Phantom VPN offers up to 500 MB of data monthly and ups that to 1 GB if you register. Phantom VPN offers free and paid apps. NordVPN is a paid app with unlimited data and three paid options. It offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Adblock Browser

While ads help many websites and apps pay the bills, they're often intrusive, obstructing something you're trying to read or getting in the way of good user experience. This situation can be especially frustrating on a small screen. Worse, some ads contain tracking or even malware. As with its desktop counterpart, Adblock Browser for Android allows you to block all ads and whitelist sites you'd like to support.

Files and Apps

The solutions below can help you gain additional security for phone-based actions you might not think much about: backing up your data and having open apps.

SpiderOak ONE

It's important to back up your data but, as with everything online, cloud backup services are susceptible to hacks. Most cloud storage services can read your data, meaning anyone who hacks them can read it too. SpiderOak ONE touts itself as being a 100 percent no-knowledge app, meaning your data is readable only by you. The company offers several fee-based plans but you can try the service for free for 21 days with no credit card required.

AppLock

Passing your phone around to share pictures or handing it to your child to let them play a game may make you a little uncomfortable and it's easy to understand why. Anyone with access to your phone has the potential to see something you don't want them to. AppLock enables you to keep apps you're not using locked with a password, PIN, pattern, or fingerprint. Locking your apps provides an added layer of security in case your phone is lost or stolen and someone manages to get past the lock screen. You can also use it to secure images and videos in your Gallery app. AppLock uses a random keyboard and invisible pattern lock so you can avoid giving away your password or pattern. You can also prevent others from killing or uninstalling the app. Applock has a free option that's ad-supported, or you can pay to get rid of the ads.