Monday, 21 November 2016 13:38

Android On Lockdown


Make your smartphone experience more private by limiting how much data is shared


From the beginning, personal computers have presented us with a bit of a privacy challenge, but today’s smartphones take the stakes to a new level. They store our communications, track our locations, save our contacts, log our browsing habits, handle our social networks, and so much more.


The US Federal Communications Commission recommends 10 steps to secure your smartphone. These include basic pointers such as setting a PIN, backing up your data, and installing updates. Some suggestions, such as not rooting your phone and only installing apps from trusted sources, are great for general users but not required.


I would consider their recommendations a starting point – a way to protect your smartphone from malicious software, thieves who want to sell your phone, and people looking to steal your passwords over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. But they won’t keep your smartphone activity private. They won’t guard you against unwanted monitoring from companies and governments. To do that, you’re going to have to give more thought to how you use your device. Here are some more steps to consider.



SMS messages are great because they work on any phone, but one downside is that all of the information contained within these messages is unencrypted. Carriers and governments can see when you sent a message, to whom, and what you said.


To shield your personal conversations from prying eyes, you should download an encrypted messaging app instead. There are two approaches to take here. Apps such as Signal and Telegram only work over a data connection, but they offer the most privacy.


If you want the versatility that comes from using SMS, try downloading Silence. The app can’t encrypt the metadata, which shows when you sent a message and who you were talking to, but it does hide what was said.



Google Maps is free, and it’s reliable enough to be the navigation app most people I know depend on. The service doesn’t cost money to use, but there’s a cost. Google wants information, and Maps is a treasure trove. It knows where we live, how far it is to our friends’ houses, and the places we’ve been.


If you don’t want anyone knowing where you drive, download an app that relies on offline maps. I rely on OsmAnd, an open source solution. Sygic is one of the most popular commercial options. HERE WeGo defaults to online use, but it lets you save locations for access offline.


To be extra sure an app isn’t submitting your trips, you can prevent it from having internet access after you’ve downloaded your maps. This way where you go is your business alone.



Google keeps track of every term you type into the search box. Other search engines do this too. Bing and Yahoo want this information, even if they aren’t as adept at personalising the results as well as the Big G.


Your searches reveal a lot about you. Someone with this information can get a reasonable idea of your interests and what you think about from day to day. They can determine your political preferences, your income bracket, where you live, and other information that you would probably prefer someone to ask you for directly.


Fortunately an alternative engine has popped up, and it promises to respect your privacy. DuckDuckGo may not have the name recognition or the resources of the competition, but there are reasons to prefer it over Google.



Passwords serve as the gatekeepers to our online lives. Good practice dictates that you use a unique password for every account. That can be challenging, which is why we’ve covered various techniques for creating strong passwords.


No matter how you slice it, a virtual keyboard isn’t the best way to input a lengthy string of characters. Fortunately, there are apps that circumvent this issue; they’re called password managers. Some store your passwords on your phone while others keep them online.


Or you can download one of the various password generators that don’t leave a record of your credentials that someone could potentially get their hands on.



Were you surprised when your last status update on Facebook or Twitter declared your location to the world? These apps ask your permission to broadcast where you are, but they don’t always make it obvious. You could be transmitting your regular whereabouts without even realising it.


Social networks make this easy to disable, so make sure that you do. While you’re at it, make sure you aren’t making any of these mistakes either.



Google Play is the easiest way to get software onto most Android phones, and it’s also pretty secure. But there’s a downside to that convenience. Someone is creating a record of every app you’ve ever installed. If you buy music, ebooks, or movies –there’s a record of that too.


You may not mind Google having that information today. Or you may currently trust it in the hands of Amazon, which offers a competing marketplace. But that may change in the future if either decides to utilise that data.


F-Droid is an alternative way to get apps that doesn’t log which ones you download. The downside is that it doesn’t contain nearly as many options. On the other hand, it only offers free and open-source software, which an extra level of peace of mind. You don’t know for sure what closed-source apps are doing with your data.


Author:  Pune Mirror








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