Who could blame you if you flinch a bit each time you go online? The Internet can be a dangerous place.
We know the basics of mobile security -- don't give out personal information, for example, or don't click suspicious links -- but you can take the next steps with these easy-to-use security apps that can watch over your privacy and ensure you stay secure online.
Our picks to secure your mobile devices include tools for encrypting your Internet traffic, guarding your online privacy, ensuring no one can snoop on your text messages or video calls, and managing your passwords. Think of these apps as your Android Internet privacy starter kit.
You can certainly take further precautions if you're concerned about plugging every leak -- by using search engines that don't track you, for example, or by using encrypted cloud-storage services -- but using our picks for the best and safest Android antivirus apps, VPNs, browsers, password managers, and chat apps are an easy way to help you stay private online.
Most secure browser: Firefox
Browsers can leave a trail of all your activities, making it fairly easy for businesses to identify and track your browsing activities without much effort. If you want to guard your data while browsing, you need a browser that attempts to mask or erase your online activities.
The free Firefox browser (Android) from Mozilla promises to put users' privacy above other objectives. It is an easy-to-use mobile browser that compares favorably with Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari browsers and puts you in charge of your personal data. It comes with built-in tracking protection, which you can extend with add-ons.
Mozilla has an even more privacy-centered browser in Firefox Focus (Android). If you are looking for alternatives to protect your privacy, check out the Brave Browser (Android) for Android. By default, the free browser attempts to block trackers and ads, and it employs an interesting way to compensate the creators whose ad revenue you are blocking by letting you make anonymous contributions to websites you visit. Of, try the Orfox Tor Browser (Android) for Android if you can keep your Internet traffic private. It works by bouncing your data around a distributed network, preventing others from monitoring your traffic, discovering your location, and observing your browsing activities. It lacks some bells and whistles found in other browsers, but you get a tight focus on your security in exchange.
Most secure Firefox browser extension: Privacy Badger
The Firefox browser is designed to watch over your browsing privacy, but you can give it a boost with a few extensions that can block trackers and guard data on your Android device.
Privacy Badger (Android) from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, watches for third-party trackers that monitor your activities across websites and then blocks their ability to track you until you grant them permission. You can find other extensions that do the same thing, but Privacy Badger is easy to use.
If you are looking to expand your extension kit, another extension from the EFF, HTTPS Everywhere (Android) automatically redirects your traffic to the HTTPS version of a website if the encrypted version is available, helping to keep your web communications encrypted.
The Decentraleyes (Android) extension comes with a collection of commonly used web libraries that your browser can use instead of requesting those libraries from an external server and having the external site track you. If you want to know more, see these Reddit posts for details about how the extension works.
Most secure password manager: LastPass
A password manager can take on the task of remembering and filling in passwords and other log-in information. It can also generate strong passwords for you.
LastPass (Android) offers a rich set of password-management tools for free. With a $24-a- year subscription, you can share password and other log-in info with others. If you're thinking about using a password manager, it's hard to beat LastPass.
If you would rather go with an open-source alternative, Bitwarden (Android) is a free password manager that lets you create, store, and sync passwords across the popular browsers and platforms. If you already use another manager, you can import your data from LastPass, 1Password, and Chrome, for example. The 1Password (Android) app from AgileBits securely handles all your passwords, letting you sign in to mobile apps, websites, and services with one master password on your Android phone. AgileBits gives you a 30-day trial to check out its password manager. After that, it's $2.99 a month. For $4.99 a month, you can cover five family members.
Most secure chat app: Signal
A handful of apps encrypts messages, creating a private connection through the Internet. When applied end to end, this advanced level of encryption allows just the sender and receiver to view the message. (While WhatsApp uses the same encryption protocol as Signal does to encrypt messages, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, and we are concerned enough about how Facebook handles its user data to not include WhatsApp in our picks for secure messaging apps.)
The free Signal communications service (Android) from Open Whisper Systems lets you hold end-to-end encrypted text, voice, and video chats to keep your messages private.
If you are looking for an alternative with more robust group features, Wire Secure Messenger app (Android) joins end-to-end encryption with individual and group communication tools that let you chat, make video calls, hold group voice calls, and share files securely.
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Most secure VPN: iVPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an important piece of your online protection kit. It can provide a secure Internet connection, mask your data transmissions over a public Wi-Fi connection, help you skirt Internet filtering and censorship, and allow you access to content in a geographical region other than your own.
iVPN (Android) provides an easy way to create a secure connection to the Internet and guard your privacy. A monthly subscription goes for $15, but better deals are available if you sign up for longer.
As an alternative, the Private Internet Access (Android) VPN is easy to set up and use but offers plenty of encryption settings if you like to tinker and want to find a balance between speed and privacy. Subscriptions start at $6.95 for 30 days. And if you want a free VPN, beware that the VPN market is a viper pit, full of free VPN services that make their money by tracking your activities and sharing your data with third parties. We almost always run away from free VPNs, but we trust TunnelBear (Android), which puts a friendly face on Internet security and privacy. TunnelBear offers 500MB of free VPN data each month. And if you need more, you can tweet to @theTunnelBear to get 1GB for free for a month. Subscriptions start at $9.99 for 30 days for both desktop and mobile.
Most secure antivirus and antimalware: Bitdefender
Android has a handful of trusted antivirus apps you can use to secure your phone. The good news is, a good security app doesn't have to cost you: Many of the best anti-malware apps for Android are available in a free version that offers basic real-time protection and in a paid edition that includes anti-theft protection, phishing alerts, call blocking, and more.
Bitdefender's Antivirus Free (Android) is the lean and free sibling of the company's top-rated Mobile Security & Antivirus app and is designed to keep malware off your Android phone without a lot of fuss. If you want protection beyond what Google provides in its Play Store, the free Bitdefender app is a good choice for antivirus for Android.
For something with a few more tools, Sophos Mobile Security (Android) earns top marks on malware protection -- for free. The Android antimalware app can help track down a lost device, password-protect apps, check on which apps may be compromising your privacy, and manage passwords. What's not to like with this free antivirus?
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