The Best Privacy and Security Apps for Android

Secure your messages, phone calls, and personal data

Mobile security
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With numerous high profile security breaches and hacks in the news, privacy and security are at the top of mind for many. It's not just about emails either, all of your data is at risk including photos, text messages, files, and browser history. It's more important than ever to keep your data safe from would-be hackers and prying eyes. With many of us managing our lives via smartphone, that one device holds a lot of power, and it's essential to stay on top of mobile security.

Here are mobile apps you should consider downloading to keep your communication, financial data, and other private information safe and secure. As always, it's important that you download these apps from a reputable source. I've linked to the Google Play Store below and included the company name so you can be confident that you're downloading the correct app if you choose another app store.

Messaging and Email

For the maximum security when texting and emailing, 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 decrypt them. With end-to-end encryption, you don't have to worry about private messages getting forwarded to other parties or law enforcement getting access to your data by subpoena. Your device is still susceptible to hack or theft though, so it's important to take other precautions such as installing a VPN (see the next section), keeping a close eye on your belongings, and using the Android Device Manager to track or brick your phone in case of loss or theft.

Signal Private Messenger by Open Whisper Systems
Signal Private Messenger received an endorsement on Twitter by none other than Edward Snowden, which isn't a surprise considering it's a free app with no ads that uses end-to-end encryption to keep your messages and voice chats private. It doesn't even require an account; you can activate the app via text message.

Once you're set up, you can import the messages stored on your phone into the app. You can also use Signal to send unencrypted messages to non-Signal users, this way you don't have to toggle between apps. Likewise, you can make encrypted and unencrypted voice calls from Signal. Keep in mind that texts and calls made using Signal use data, so be mindful of your data limits and use Wi-Fi (with a VPN; see below) when possible.

Telegram by Telegram Messenger LLP
Telegram works similarly to Signal but offers some extra features including stickers and GIFs. Like Signal, there are no ads in the apps, and it's completely free. It differs in that you can use Telegram on multiple devices (though only one phone) and you can't send messages to non-Telegram users. All messages on Telegram are encrypted, but you can choose to store messages in the cloud or make them accessible only on the device that sent or received the messages. The latter is called Secret Chats, which can also be programmed to self-destruct.

Wickr Me – Secure Messenger by Wickr
Finally, Wickr Me also offers end-to-end encrypted text, video, and picture messaging, as well as voice chat. It also has a shredder feature that permanently removes all deleted messages, images, and video from your device.

Like Signal and Telegram, Wickr Me is free of cost and ads. Like Telegram, it also has stickers, as well as graffiti and photo filters.

ProtonMail – Encrypted Email by ProtonMail
An email service based in Switzerland, ProtonMail requires two passwords, one to log into your account and the other to encrypt and decrypt your messages. Encrypted data gets stored on the company's servers, which are housed under 1,000 meters of granite rock in a bunker in Switzerland. The free version of ProtonMail includes 500 MB of storage and 150 messages per day. The ProtonPlus plan ($5/month or $48/year) bumps up the storage to 5 GB, and the message allotment to 300 per hour and 1000 per day while the ProtonMail Visionary plan ($30/month or $288/year) offers 20 GB of storage and unlimited messages.

Browsers and VPN

DuckDuckGo Search & Stories by DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo is a search engine with 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 the search results aren't as tailored as Google's. It comes down to customization versus privacy.

You can also enable Tor, a private web browser, within DuckDuckgo. Tor protects your privacy by preventing websites from identifying your location and individuals from tracking the site you visit. However, you'll need an accompanying app, such as OrBot: Proxy with Tor by The Tor Project, to encrypt your Internet traffic.

Ghostery Privacy Browser by Ghostery
Ever notice something you searched for, such as a pair of sneakers, show up as an ad on another website? Ghostery helps you minimize access to your data by ad trackers and other tools. You can view all of the trackers on a website and block any with which you're not comfortable. It also lets you quickly clear your cookies and cache, and you can choose between eight different search engines including DuckDuckGo as mentioned above.

Avira Phantom VPN by AVIRA and NordVPN by NordVPN
If you use Wi-Fi often to save on data consumption, your security may be at risk. 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 Virtual Private Connection (VPN), such as Avira Phantom VPN and NordVPN, encrypts your connection and your location to keep snoops out.

Both also enable you to choose a location so you can view content that's regionally restricted, such as a sporting event or TV show. Avira Phantom VPN offers up to 500 MB of data monthly and ups that to 1 GB if you register; you can get unlimited data for $10 per month. NordVPN is a paid app with unlimited data. There are three plan options: $11.95 for one month; $7 per month for six months; or $5.75 per month for one year. It offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

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

Phone Calls

Hushed Anonymous Phone Number by AffinityClick Inc.
Is there anything more annoying than persistent calls from telemarketers? Unwanted calls can verge on harassment. The Hushed app lets you create disposable numbers anytime you're not comfortable sharing your digits; it's like having burner phones without having to buy an actual burner phone. It will also block your number from displaying on Caller ID. Hushed is a great tool to have when buying or selling things online, dating or any interactions with strangers, or when you sign up for a website that requires a phone number. Hushed is free for the first few days, after which you can sign up for a paid plan and either pay by the minute or opt for an unlimited plan.

Silent Phone – private calls by Silent Circle, Inc.
We've talked about encrypting your text messages, emails, and voice chats, but if you're someone who uses their phone as a phone, you'll want to do the same for your calls. Silent Phone not only encrypts your phone calls, but it also offers secure file sharing and has a self-destruct feature for text messages. The $9.95 per month subscription includes unlimited calls and messages.

Files and Apps

SpiderOakONE by SpiderOak, Inc.
Cloud storage is a huge convenience, but as with everything online, susceptible to hacks. SpiderOakONE touts itself as 100 percent zero knowledge, which means that your data is readable only by you. Other cloud storage services can read your data, which means if there's a data breach, your information is vulnerable. Plans start at $5 per month for 100 GB and top out at $12 per month for 1 TB. The company offers a 21-day trial and doesn't require a credit card on file, so you don't have to worry about unwanted charges if you forget to cancel.

AppLock by DoMobile Lab
When you pass your phone around to share pictures or let your child play a game on it, you've probably had that sinking feeling that they might see something on there that you don't want them to. Applock lets you keep would-be snoops out by locking apps with a password, PIN, pattern, or fingerprint. Locking your apps provides a layer of security if your phone is lost or stolen and someone unlocks it. You can also secure images and videos from your gallery app. It 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 AppLock. Foiled again! Applock has a free option that's ad-supported, or you can pay to get rid of ads.