Today, every Android phone is a small computer, with internet access, thousands upon thousands of apps available for installation, and much more. With only a phone in your pocket, the possibilities are endless. However, the possibilities of third parties prying into your sensitive data are endless as well when you use an Android device.
In the darker parts of the Internet, many online threats are being born right now. Each is more dangerous than the previous one, and they all seek to steal information and damage your devices. Then, there are companies that wish to harvest your information in order to target you with more relevant ads. And then finally, there are spying agencies that are becoming more and more equipped with info about every one of the citizens that they are supposed to protect.
So, obviously, the situation is not at all bright for Android users. What makes matters even worse is that the majority of Android users do not even realize just how vulnerable their phones are. They also do not understand how much sensitive personal data their phones are offering. A hacker with some skill doesn’t have to steal your phone anymore in order to hack into it. And with all the apps that you have on it, every door is open for this criminal.
Via your phone, he can access your bank account, social media, and personal emails. He can find your home address, steal yours and your family pictures, as well as contact lists, texts, calendar, and anything else.
Losing this kind of info can ruin your life. It can ruin even your family’s life, and also lead to ruining the lives of your friends and family. So what can you do about it? Well, you can start by protecting your phone. And that is what we are going to talk about in this article.
How To Protect Your Android Phone?
#1 Use A VPN
VPNs are one of the best ways to make sure that your Android phone is safe. They can protect the device itself by protecting its connection to the internet.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This is a very useful tool that was made in order to ensure users’ safety, security, privacy, and anonymity. They can protect you from prying eyes of the internet, as well as from threats like viruses, ransomware, and other forms of malware.
This is possible because VPNs use three basic layers of protection that every VPN offers, as well as multiple smaller features that differ from provider to provider. These three basic layers are security protocols, encryption, and a server network.
VPN protocols work by creating a secure tunnel that connects your phone and the internet. When your data travels between these two points, it goes through this tunnel. By doing so, it has protection from view, and nobody can know what you are doing, or exploit that information. That includes your ISP.
However, no security system is perfect on its own, which is why VPNs employ a second layer of protection – encryption. Encryption will, naturally, encrypt all of your data. Therefore, even if there is a leak, those who might collect leaking data won’t know what they are looking at. The best VPNs use only the most powerful encryption, and those cannot be broken and breached.
Finally, we have a server network. Every VPN has its own servers, although their number and locations are different for every provider. These servers are scattered around the world, and they can be found in many different countries. When you connect to a VPN, you are also connecting to one of these servers.
By doing so, you are hiding your real IP address, and instead of that one, you are using an IP assigned by the VPN server you are connecting to. This is useful because your IP carries a lot of info, including your location. Therefore, anyone who tries to locate you via IP will only find the location of the server. Also, all of your online actions usually get recorded on an IP. If you are not using your own, then nobody can connect that info back to you.
Another useful perk that you get this way is the ability to bypass geo-restrictions. They exist because some sites and online services decide to limit their audience to only a certain region or a country. By changing your IP, you change your apparent location. So, if you have chosen the right one, you can get access to the content that these sites provide.
Which VPN To Use?
VPNs are very useful tools and one of the most effective and straightforward ways to secure all your devices. They are especially important these days, when a lot of people constantly have to worry about their privacy. Every new month is bringing news about more and more surveillance from the governments, new malware and ransomware attacks, and generally new threats to your privacy.
With a situation like that, and only getting worse and worse, the VPN providers have started appearing all over the place. There are over 850 of them currently, which makes choosing the right one quite a challenge. Especially because not all of them are equally as good.
In fact, there are many of them that can’t provide decent protection, despite the fact that they are promising it. This is especially true when it comes to free VPNs. Not only can they not protect you as good as premium ones, but they might also collect and send your private data in order to make money.
If you wish a good, strong protection for your Android, you will have to go for a premium one. Now, since choosing the right one is difficult, and since the new users usually don’t know what to look for, we have done our own tests. By doing so, we can point you in the right direction and recommend several VPNs that you can trust to protect you as best as possible. Those are:
So let’s see what they can offer.
ExpressVPN is currently one of the top choices in the entire VPN industry. It has many extra features, which makes it very desirable and trustworthy. It can offer multiple security protocols, the strongest encryption, and servers in 77+ countries.
You can use it for your Android, as well as multiple other devices and OSs, including iOS devices, Windows, Mac, and Linux. It offers a no logging policy, although it will keep track of your connections. However, it will offer you a good customer support, as well as bandwidth and speeds with no limit on them.
You can pay for this VPN via debit or credit card, PayPal, and even Bitcoin. And, if you decide that you do not like it, don’t worry. You will also get a 30-day money return policy, which means that you have a month to test it and get your money back if you don’t like it.
30-Day Money Back Guarantee
Coming up next is NordVPN. Like the rest of them, Nord offers a lot, which includes an easy setup and simple-to-use app, a no logging policy, and more. It is one of the safest providers out there, which you can tell by looking at its features.
First of all, it offers a kill switch, which is a very useful tool that you don’t see everywhere. This feature can cut your connection instantly if the protection drops for some reason. It also supports and protects P2P traffic, which is great news for all the torrent users out there. Its no logging policy is very strict, and it offers a 30-day money return guarantee.
However, it also has one unique feature that you probably won’t see a lot, even if you look through all 850+ other providers. That is its double encryption, that actually encrypts your data twice. Even a regular encryption is good enough to be considered a great protection, but this provider doubles it. Combine that with its 981 servers in 58 countries, and you have maximal protection and anonymity that you can get.
Finally, there is also a money back guarantee that lasts for 30 days, which will allow you to go back on the deal with no penalty if you do not like it.
Special Offer For Anonymster’s Readers
HideMyAss is a clever VPN with an obvious and still amusing sense of humor. It also has one of the largest server networks out there, which is even bigger than the one IPVanish offers. It includes over 860 servers in 190 countries around the world. In total, that is more than 110,000 IP addresses, where IPVanish offers 40,000.
However, these numbers, no matter how amazing they are, are not all that this provider offers. It also has a great customer service, good speeds, and strong protection. It even comes with a built-in speed test tool. Apart from that, it has a great FAQ on its website, very affordable prices, and it doesn’t keep logs.
Obviously, this provider cares about its users very much, and with all these features, it obviously proves it.
30-day Money Back Guarantee
Last on the list is LeVPN. Now, this is one of the most trustworthy providers out there. Its creators are information security specialists, which is a guarantee of its quality by itself. This VPN has a first-class encryption, multiple protocols, and servers in over 114 countries.
Apart from that, it also supports P2P traffic, has an amazing customer support, and it can also protect pretty much any device and system. It has great speeds, and it puts no limit on the bandwidth. Apart from all that, it also offers SmartDNS.
Now, this one also has a unique feature, which is a combination of SmartDNS and a VPN. This is what they call a HybridVPN service, and it is capable of bypassing firewalls and restrictions. However, that is not all. While it goes through such protections, it also makes itself look like regular internet traffic, which will make you even more secure while using it.
7-Day Money Back Guarantee
Next, we have IPVanish. Another very popular choice with a strong protection, and a very large server network. In fact, it offers 850+ servers in over 60 countries. With numbers like that, you can bypass any restriction that you want.
It keeps no logs, encrypts your data, and it will not keep any logs. It has a non-stop customer service that you can contact if you have any issues. However, you probably won’t, since its software is pretty straightforward and very user-friendly.
However, IPVanish has one unique feature that makes it even better than the rest of them, which is the fact that it actually owns its server network. Because of that, it can offer way faster speeds than the majority of other providers. It might just be one of the fastest ones out there, which is definitely useful for streaming and playing online games on your Android device. It also offers a 7-day money back guarantee, so make sure to check it out.
7-Day Money Back Guarantee
Now, as much as we would like to say that VPN is an absolutely perfect, flawless protection, the truth is that it has its flaws as well. Let us explore them now.
Issues With Using A VPN App For Android
Since the sudden increase in VPN popularity, multiple studies were conducted in order to determine just how safe VPNs really are. Studies like the one by researchers at University of South Wales, CSIRO’s Data 61 and UC Berkley have found some interesting, although concerning results.
According to them, a lot of VPN apps from Google Play Store actually pose a big risk to your Android’s security. They have issues that include spyware, data leaks, adware, and malware in general.
The studies have also shown that many people are choosing a VPN app according to the number of stars that its rating shows. However, even the highest rating ones carry some pretty bad surprises. In fact, over 38% of the tested apps (283 in total) have malware attached to them.
That includes adware, trojans, malvertising, riskware, as well as spyware. There were very few users who actually questioned the security of the apps, while the rest simply downloaded them blindly, according to the number of downloads. Right now, there are millions of users out there with possible infections on their devices that they do not know about.
This is especially a problem since these VPNs have access to all the private data that they should protect. So, despite the fact that increase in awareness when it comes to security and privacy is a good thing, not many apps on Google Play Store can offer them. VPNs are constantly promising things that they can’t deliver, which invokes the false sense of security.
18% of the apps that the researchers were testing will provide tunneling via protocols, but the encryption does not come as a part of the package. These findings are raising concerns when it comes to security and privacy a lot.
Many of these apps are also leaking when it comes to both IPv6 traffic, as well as DNS traffic. Around 66% of the apps have had DNS leaks, while an astounding 84% were leaking IPv6. So, not only do they promise encryption that is not there, but they also have major leaks too. These are some very concerning reports, especially from the users’ perspective.
This is why you must only use apps from the providers that you trust, otherwise the “protection” might deal even more damage than you would suffer if you didn’t have a VPN.
In order to demonstrate which are the most problematic apps, researchers have presented them by using a VirusTotal AV-Rank. The following is the list of several VPNs that were found to have malware activity connected to them.
These are the problems that you might encounter while dealing with the VPN apps for your Android. As you can see, the situation is not great, and you must stay extra careful when it comes to choosing your provider.
Note: The VPNs which are reviewed above do not have these issues.
#2 Encrypt Your Android
As one of the best forms of protection when it comes to your Android device itself is the complete encryption. If you encrypt your device, all of its data will become unreadable and scrambled. Nobody will get to your files without a proper PIN, password, or pattern.
Only after these methods of verification are inserted properly will your encryption be lifted.
The encryption was introduced on Android Gingerbread (2.3.x), and it is available in every version since. Every version from Lollipop until the newest ones have encryption enabled from the moment you unwrap it. However, if you have the older model, you will have to turn it on by yourself, manually.
Encryption is useful because it will properly protect the data on your phone. Many companies use it as a measure of precaution, in order to prevent corporate espionage. If someone tries to break into the phone, they won’t get the files they are after. At least not without some pretty modern methods that require special knowledge and equipment.
However, for an average user, this is more than enough to protect your sensitive files and data. And since our Androids possess tons of such data, from messages, and photographs, to bank accounts and alike, it is important to prevent others from unlocking your phone.
The Side Effects Of Android Encryption
Of course, the encryption has some possible negative sides as well, and there are things for you to consider before you make a decision whether or not to use it. There are not many such side effects, but those that do exist might impact the way you use your phone. Mainly, there are three things that you should keep in mind:
- Slower performance of your phone – Due to encryption and decrypting process, your phone won’t “fly” the way it used to. For most users, this won’t pose much of an issue and depending on how good the phone is, and how much files you have, you might not even feel the difference. However, you should probably prepare for a slightly slower approach from now on.
- One-way encryption – If you don’t have it running by default, then the only way to reverse it is to reset the device completely. That means returning it to factory settings and starting from scratch. Your phone will be just like when you first bought it.
- You will have to unroot your phone during the process – this is worth mentioning because if you do not unroot your phone, you will probably run into some issues. You can re-root it back after enabling the encryption.
Encrypting your phone is a step in the right direction, and we definitely think that you should do it. The side effects that we have mentioned just now are not there to talk you out of doing it. We just want you to know what you are getting yourself into before you change your mind.
How To Encrypt Your Android Device
Before getting to the actual steps that you should follow for enabling encryption, here are a couple more things that you should know:
- The process might take an hour, or possibly longer
- You must have at least 80% of battery, otherwise Android won’t start the process
- Plug your device into a charger before starting, and keep it like that during the process
- Unroot your phone, if it is rooted
These instructions are something that you absolutely must obey, otherwise, you might lose your data during the process. After the process starts, leave your device alone until everything is done. Now that we have got that out of the way, let us start with the actual steps.
First, go to the Settings menu on your Android.
From there, go to Security.
Depending on your model, the wording might not stay the same, but you should easily follow these instructions no matter what your phone calls these options.
Now, if your phone already has encryption up and running, you will see it here. Another thing that you should know is that Android won’t encrypt your SD card. Some devices will do it, but Android is not one of them.
If the encryption is not already running, you can start the process by selecting the option ‘Encrypt phone’.
You will get a warning on the next screen. It will tell you what will happen upon the completion of the process, and we have already covered most of it previously in this guide. Tap ‘Encrypt Phone‘ when you are ready to proceed.
You should now get another warning, which is there so that everyone is sure that you really want to do this. It will repeat that you should not interrupt the process once it starts. Once again, select ‘Encrypt phone’, and the process will finally start.
You will see a progress bar now, and it will show how long the encryption will take. Usually, the process takes roughly about an hour.
After the process is done, the phone will reboot, and you will have your phone back, fully operational. If you have a password, pattern, or a PIN, you should enter it now, and the device will finish the process.
If you do not have such verification method, you should set one right now, otherwise, the entire process was for nothing. Do it by going to Settings, and from there to Security Menu. Now go to Screen Lock, and choose the method of verification that you would like to use.
You will have to decide if you want for your phone to ask for PIN, pattern or password after start-up. We recommend that you choose Yes, but the final decision is yours. Just remember that you are doing this for protection, not convenience.
After the device boots, not even a fingerprint reader will unlock your phone, if you have one. This is important to remember – only your chosen verification method will work properly. You can use your fingerprint reader later after you have unlocked the phone properly after booting.
And that is it. Your device is now under encryption, which is the best way to protect it from possible thieves. Remember, if you ever choose to disable it, only a total reset to factory settings can do the trick. If you choose that option, you will lose all of your data forever. So, make sure that you have it somewhere safe first. Alternatively, if your device came with encryption, then you are stuck with it. Nothing can remove it, not even a factory reset.
#3 De-Google Your Android
Another method of increasing your privacy would be to cut Google out of your life. At least, as much as you can.
This might seem strange to you at first, but let’s think about it for a second. Google knows everything about everything that you do online. This entire service focuses on gathering data about you and creating your personal profile. In fact, it is probably quite accurate to say that Google knows you better than your friends and family combined.
It will store data about where you go, what you do, what you watch, and how much time do you spend on each site.
When it first appeared, Google took the world by storm. Never before was there a search engine with so much speed, quality, and such good service. However, all that is good often comes as very expensive. We can also apply that to Google, and all the services that it offers.
Of course, Google won’t take your money. However, you will still pay. You will pay with information concerning your identity, habits, behavior, preferences, and more. That info is coming in from around the world, and Google successfully collects data on pretty much everyone who uses it. And what does it do with it? Well, it sells it to advertisers, of course. That way, the company is making tons of money, and advertisers are increasing their sales by targeting right people with right product ads.
You might even say that Google is the biggest and most successful spying agency in history. And we are feeding it all of that data willingly.
Still, there are people who would want to stop doing so, and if you are one of them, then you might just want to keep reading. We will now see what steps you can take to reduce the amount of information that Google is collecting from your Android or your PC.
#4 Spread The Data
Thanks to all the services that Google provides us with, we are using them for all of our needs. It is simple and convenient, and it allows this company to just collect all of our data at once. Now, if you worry about your privacy enough, you may be willing to sacrifice some of that convenience.
Giving Google up completely, as well as all of its services is difficult, we know. However, if you truly wish to hide something from this company, you might want to try out some other service. Preferably, one with base in Europe. EU has a lot of privacy laws that are a much better alternative. But more on that later.
#5 Use Different Search Engine
Hiding from Google completely is almost impossible. However, that doesn’t mean that you should make the company’s job easier and just hand over all that information. True, the Google search engine is the best one out there, and it has the best algorithms.
However, there are many anonymous search engines that will still provide the same results without tracking you while they are doing it. Some of the top anonymous search engines are:
#6 Delete The Cookies
To defend yourself from this privacy invasion, you can use tracker blockers. One of them is Ghostery, and you can install it as an add-on in your browser. It will deal with the cookies, and inform you of the results.
Another option for you is to use a service by the name of privacyfix.com. It was delivered by AVG, and it will show you how to modify privacy settings on your devices, as well as internet services that you might be using.
#7 Leave Gmail
This will probably be the hardest part for many users. Google’s email service is the best there is, and it is in a league of its own when it comes to quality and protection from other influences.
With all that in mind, do you still think that it is a good idea to store your confidential documents on Google Drive? We think not.
Still, there are many good alternatives out there. You can switch to them and know that your data will stay safe, or at least safer from Google’s influence and sticky fingers. Many of them won’t screen your messages and will provide a decent encryption. And yes, the transfer might prove difficult to get used to at first, but give it a week or two, and you will find your way around.
You can even take the process slowly. Start by forwarding the messages to the new inbox until you are ready for a complete separation. By using Google Takeout, you can download your messages, and then open them offline by another email program. This won’t take it away from Google, and others who use it and whom you might still be in contact with will have their copy of your future conversation. However, you yourself will have a new, fresh start elsewhere.
#8 Leave The Cloud
This might prove to be just as difficult as leaving Gmail. Google’s services have been managing all of our needs for years now, and the majority of our online lives are tied closely to it.
Leaving it might pose a small problem, but it is relatively easy when you compare it to the task of keeping all the contacts, calendars, and the rest in sync and in check. Thanks to its Cloud, everything is so conveniently put in place, and instantly available. When you go, you will have to do it all manually unless you find a replacement soon.
#9 Install A New OS On Your Android Phone (Expert Users)
Ever since Google bought Android a decade ago, it had insight in pretty much anything that Android users do. The first problem is that smartphones are leaking data all over the place. Many companies and organizations are perfectly capable of collecting that data even without trying too hard.
Google, however, wants all of it. Or at least as much as possible. When it first bought it, it was presenting it as an open source alternative for iOS that Apple was offering. In recent years, however, it started pulling app developers, makers of mobile handsets, and everyone else that had something to do with Android.
Now, protecting a smartphone with Android OS on it is pretty much impossible thanks to all of this. Those who know how to do it might actually completely wipe the Android system and install CyanogenMod instead. This is a completely functional OS that can pose as a substitute on your smartphone.
Best Alternatives To Google And Its Services
So, now that you know all this, you can see just how big of an insight Google actually has when it comes to your life. And that goes for both online life and the real one. Do not forget the tracking of your phone’s location, and pulling out the data from apps that you use.
But, as we have mentioned before, there is a cure for a lot of these issues too. Using Google and its many, many services is extremely convenient, and it makes the whole experience easy and even fun. However, if you wish to protect your data as much as possible, you should consider alternative services.
Let us start off with Google’s email service. If you wish to switch your email service, you have several options:
- Hush Mail – it is free, it offers privacy and no ads
- Fastmail.FM – it is an alternative that you have to pay for, but it is very fast, and it has a clean interface
- Microsoft’s Outlook & Yahoo Mail – these two are also free, but they are not that different from Google when it comes to collecting a database
- TutanotaÂ – Get your encrypted mailbox for free.
Tasks And Calendar
When it comes to a calendar, Google offers us Google Calendar as a default option. However, for those who wish to change that, we can recommend:
- Any.Do / Cal – one of the best options for organizing your life once you leave Google
- Momentum – this one is an app from Chrome. It is basically an add-on that you can use for focusing on your tasks. It will replace the “new tab” page.
Google, of course, has its preference when it comes to blogging as well. It offers its Blogger service. However, you might want to choose one of these as an alternative:
- Posthaven – not a great place for a new blog, and definitely not for a business. However, if you want a safe place for writing, then it is more than decent.
- Tumblr – you probably know all about this option, which is pretty good if you don’t mind cat photos
- Self-hosted WordPress website – this is probably your best option. You can find a lot of tutorials on how to set up a site, and it is pretty easy these days.
Google’s famous Chrome is the option this company prefers. We won’t lie, Chrome is definitely a top browser, and it is hard to beat it. However, as an alternative, we propose Firefox. It is non-profit, simple, and good enough to pose more than a decent competition to Chrome.
Of course, we all know Google’s preference for this. Google Search is the top search engine, and it has been for years now. Still, that doesn’t mean that there are no others out there. Some of them are also more than decent and can serve as a safer alternative. We recommend:
- DuckDuckGo – a private search engine that doesn’t track your activities. It is not perfect, but it is privacy and security that matter
- Startpage.com – simply put, it is Google that won’t track you
- Bing – many would say that this is a terrible, pointless search engine. The truth is that it is not that good, but it is still better than what the rumors say.
Google would have you use its Picasa for sharing and managing photos. Instead, you might want to try:
- Flickr – a photo sharing service that comes from Yahoo
- 500px – an independent platform for photo sharing that might even inspire you to start taking better photos
Google offers its Google Drive, which many use for pure convenience. There are several alternatives when it comes to this Cloud-based service, and we recommend:
- Dropbox – you have probably heard about it by now
- Mega – You get 50GB of storage space for free. Even Google only gives you 15GB, so this is more than welcome
- Box – A decent alternative to Dropbox
- iCloud – this is a service that comes with OSX
- PCloudÂ – Cloud storage solution for businesses of any size!
When it comes for creating documents themselves, Google offers Google Docs. If you want to change that, you can go for:
Google has its Google Apps for Domains. Those who wish to leave this option can find their new home at:
This pretty much speaks for itself, and for creating a website, Google will offer you the Google Sites service. However, we recommend that you go for self-hosting. Do not bother with free sites. This is simply something that you will have to pay to use properly.
Yes, Google has a service for this as well. It is called Google Analytics, but as always, we are looking for an alternative. Here are some good ones:
- Clicky – simple but good as a replacement
- CrazyEgg – it will give you insight at what users are clicking on, and what interests them on your site
- MixPanel – this is an option for advanced analytics. A powerful tool that only some fast-growing startups might need.
We all remember when Google+ was supposed to arrive and win over all of Facebook users. It did not turn out to be that popular. However, if you still enjoy it, you might want to stop now, and replace it with this:
- Twitter – it hardly needs introducing
- Instagram – also very famous these days
- WhatsApp – A very popular choice, allows free international texting and messaging
Of course, Google would recommend YouTube. For a lot of people, this is pretty much the only option. It is a safe, familiar place that they are using for years now. However, there is an alternative – Vimeo. It is a classy alternative, with an artistic angle. Still, it is not quite like YouTube, and it is safe to say that YouTube doesn’t really have a decent competitor. It is a complex place that could really use a good alternative. So far, however, no such luck.
That is pretty much all you can do if you wish to part ways with Google. Another option remains for those who wish to completely delete their account from Google, and to do that, you should follow these steps:
1. Log into your account
2. Go to Account Preferences, and click on Delete your account or services
3. Choose what you wish to delete, or if you want to delete all of it, click on Delete Google Account and data
4. Make sure to review everything that you will delete by doing this
5. Click Delete
This will work on your private account. If your account was made by your company or some other kind of organization, then you will have to get in contact with your administrator.
In this guide, we have covered quite a lot. From VPNs, what they can do, which are the best ones, and what are their possible issues, through de-Googling your life, and finally to phone encryption.
All of these methods serve one purpose, and that is to make your privacy private and to keep your data safe. If you came here with questions about these things, we hope that you now have all the answers that you needed. Protecting your phone is important, and you should take some of these steps as a precaution.
Remember, it is better to be prepared than to suffer the consequences of taking things too lightly. After all, it is your safety, and that is the most important thing of all.