Set Up Privacy Conscious Smartphone Apps
DAY 11: Set Up Privacy Conscious Smartphone Apps
Welcome to Day 11 of my 30 day security challenge, the month long challenge I created to help you gain control of your privacy and security online. You can follow along with the security challenge via my blog at snubsie.com, where you can skip ahead or download a checklist of the challenge. Each video will also be curated into a playlist so it'll be easy to follow along from Day 1 all the way through 30 here on Youtube.
Today let's chat about using privacy conscious smartphone apps. Yes, this is a thing. Outside of the settings we've previously talked about, there are also third party apps you can download from reputable sources to better protect yourself when using the interwebs out and about from your smartphone.
I'll list a few categories of apps you can consider upgrading to, and whether or not these will fit your needs with respect to consumer convenience. Let's start with messaging apps.
These days, there's a ton of apps you can choose from to text people. Some of 'em only work well in certain countries, while others work across borders quite well depending on your data costs. Since I live in the US, I'm going to stick with what I know best - cross platform messaging apps that can replace your texting app easily.
My favorite is Signal for secure sms messaging. Secure messaging means your text messages can't be read by a third party, even the company that made the app. With Signal, You can send secure texts and attachments like photos and it supports emojis. It also allows you to use an app passphrase (you would have to type in this passphrase whenever you open the app), block screenshots, and even do encrypted calls. Disappearing messages will erase from the convo after 1 minute or more. It's also free, which is nice, and open source. If the other person in a text convo also uses signal, then the message is encrypted end to end. If not, then the messages are sent like standard texts.
Other secure messaging apps you may want to try out include WhatsApp and Telegram. With any secure messaging app, make sure you OPT IN to the secure options and ENABLE all privacy options you have access to. Some apps do not encrypt texts by default, so it's important to double check your settings before assuming everything is encrypted.
Next up is a privacy focused browser app. I use Brave Browser everyday on my android device. It's free, and it has built in adblock, it's fast, and it blocks trackers as well. It also has built in HTTPS Everywhere and several other privacy options in the settings. When I downloaded it, I went into my Android settings to make Brave my default browser so it automatically opens whenever I click a link (but again, use good internet hygiene when clicking links!).
Other options are popular as well, including: Firefox focus, Ghostery Privacy Browser, and Orbot just to name a few. Find the one that you like, and you'll find yourself dealing with less ads and faster load times. To be honest, I haven't noticed any kind of headaches with switching to a new browser from Chrome. It's unobtrusive and super easy.
Next up is a mobile VPN option. While setting up your own VPN on your own server can be a hassle if you're unfamiliar with the terms, you can easily use a third party VPN provider instead. I'll go into more detail on VPNs, their pros and cons, and setting them up cross platform in a few days, but for now I'll just keep it simple.
VPNs create a private tunnel from point A to point B for your traffic, point A being your phone and point B being whatever website you want to access for example. IF a VPN works the way it should, then your traffic will be encrypted and not even the VPN provider should have access to any details of your traffic. Many VPN providers do not offer truthful services, so there's a lot of debate about the best ones. Even my own recommendations could one day be found guilty of lying about what data they collect - the problem is as consumers, we don't really know. We rely on companies to be honest with us. No VPN will be as safe as you setting up your own if you know how to do it correctly. But, since this series is all about convenience and security together - I'll discuss my favs for consumers.
I use Private Internet Access VPN or PIA VPN for short. It's not pretty. It's a little bit confusing upon first setup. But it offers technical settings that I require, and comes at a low cost. Another one I like is TunnelBear which is very consumer friendly, but is more expensive and doesn't offer the same abundance of privacy settings. I also like TunnelBear because they are the first VPN to go through a Public Security Audit, which I wish more consumer VPNs would do. The nice thing about both TunnelBear and PIA VPN is once you've got an account set up, they JUST WORK. And how do you get more people to secure their traffic? Ya make it JUST WORK.
Pro tip: If you've created your own VPN, you can easily set it up yourself without the need of an app by going into your Android settings, Network and Internet, then VPN and adding your own. Another option is to download OpenVPN Connect, which allows you to import .ovpn profiles and connect to your own VPN via the app.
Those are the three big ones I wanted to focus on today. For the next few videos in this series, I'll be focusing strictly on Password Managers, 2 Factor Authentication, private cloud backups, and going more in depth on VPNs!
Day 11 is done! Tomorrow is all about private cloud backups. But first, make sure to subscribe on youtube and hit up snubsie.com for the downloadable checklist and to skip ahead on the 30 day security challenge. Again, I'm Shannon Morse and I'll see you tomorrow for day 12!