Staying safe online is vital, whatever device you’re using. While you might be aware of some bad apps on Android, overall it is safe to use. But it’s important to take extra precautions, whatever operating system you use.
To get you started, here are eight tips and apps to give you a safer browsing experience on Android.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
One of the critical ways your privacy is compromised online is when websites or even some browsers begin creating your digital profile. That allows advertisers to track you and show content based on your past activities. The most straightforward and proven solution for this is by employing a Virtual Private Network (VPN), such as ExpressVPN.
VPNs let you browse the internet seemingly anonymously, hiding your location and IP address and letting you conceal your true identity. In addition, VPNs have a bunch of other benefits. For instance, by switching to a different location, you can access geo-blocked content on platforms such as Netflix or YouTube.
You’ll find many free and paid VPN options available for Android.
2. Switch to a Third-Party DNS Resolver
The internet has multiple layers where your privacy can be compromised and one of the more weaker links in that chain is something called the DNS Resolver.
You can think of the DNS Resolver as a phone book. It contains all the domain names (names) and their corresponding IP addresses (numbers). Whenever you input a URL (e.g. “www.makeuseof.com”) the resolver is summoned to fetch the IP address of the website you have requested. Once it delivers, the computer connects the browser to it, and you’re good to go.
Since the DNS Resolver plays such a critical role in enabling the internet, one leak in the resolver’s channel can put your entire history in jeopardy. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) usually handles the DNS Resolver but chances are it is not employing the highest quality DNS.
That means poor encryption, and some DNS services are known to snoop in their users’ online behavior and sell that data to advertisers. This is particularly likely in countries with relaxed internet privacy laws.
The good news is that you can easily switch to another DNS resolver and once you shift to a third-party service, your ISP will no longer have access to your phonebook and hence, it won’t be able to log what contacts you’ve been looking up lately.
A reliable DNS service can be hard to find but when you do, it will be most likely quicker to respond to your queries and safer. Your best bet is Cloudflare’s 188.8.131.52 which is both easy to set up and secure.
Download: Cloudflare 184.108.40.206 (Free)
3. Install a Privacy-Focused Browser
Another way to ensure you’re protected online is by installing and switching to a privacy-focused browser like Firefox Focus. Focus is designed for the sole purpose of securing your digital presence. There’s no browsing history, tabs, bookmarks, or similar features found on modern browsers.
Instead, Firefox Focus comes with a wide set of tools that allow you to cover your tracks once you leave a website. The browser does so by obstructing trackers and cookies which would have otherwise monitored your browsing habits.
Download: Firefox Focus (Free)
4. Tweak Your Current Browser Settings
If you would like to preserve your browsing history and tabs for later, try tweaking the privacy settings of your current browser of choice. Most browsers today come with a bunch of security options to shield you against elements such as trackers.
Google Chrome’s Android app, for instance, also has a “Safe Browsing” switch which you can enable for automatically blocking hazardous websites. It’s available in Settings > Advanced > Privacy.
5. Don’t Use the Browser’s Password Manager
A lot of browsers like Google Chrome have begun offering their own password managers. But it’s generally not recommended to save your credentials in the browser since deceptive websites can exploit them.
Dedicated password managers, on the other hand, have far better encryption and work across every browser or platform. Meanwhile, there are various perks of switching to a password manager such as a time-saving auto-fill tool.
6. Keep the Unknown App Sources Setting Disabled
The ability to easily sideload apps in Android 8.0 Oreo onward is a popular Android feature. But it’s also a serious safety hazard and can allow malware agents to take over your phone.
As such, keep the setting disabled and only switch it on if you’re about to install a trusted app from outside the Play Store.
7. Get a Malware Scanner for Downloads
If you’re someone who often downloads files from the internet, you should have a malware scanner working in the background. That way you will be able to ensure the package you’re offloading doesn’t contain any hidden viruses.
What’s more, antivirus apps on Android come with a flurry of other tools you might find handy such as anti-theft features, performance management, and more. You can set up any of the tens of antivirus apps available for Android.
8. Scan Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi can be a double-edged sword. While they’re usually free to connect, there’s a chance the host is compensating for that by monitoring your traffic. You can escape such practices by installing a separate Wi-Fi security app like ARP Guard which alert you as soon as it finds out any unusual activities on the network.
You can also follow a set of security guidelines to stay safe on open Wi-Fi channels.
Download: ARP Guard (Free)
Upgrade Your Android Phone’s Security
Those were a few methods to have a much safer browsing experience on Android. But there is a multitude of other aspects where your privacy is vulnerable. For that, you should consider configuring a few more apps which are built to protect your privacy.