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Malware, Trojans, eavesdroppers, trackers, and thieves… the threats are endless. Though it’s been nearly a decade since smartphones went mainstream, these problems haven’t gone away. In fact, they’ve only gotten worse.
Beyond just setting the internal security options of your device, you should be using a few apps that further increase how well your device is protected. Here are some of the best we’ve found and can recommend.
Do you need all of them? Not at all. Feel free to pick and choose the ones that seem best for you.
Antivirus & Malware Apps
You might notice that these first three apps are primarily for Android. That’s because other mobile OSes aren’t as prone to infections, including iOS and W10 Mobile which tend to be pretty safe right out of the box.
1. 360 Mobile Security (Free)
If you recognize the signs of a smartphone malware infection, then the first thing you should do is install this app. Of all the mobile security apps I’ve tried, this one has provided the cleanest and most pleasant experience.
The only downside is that it tries to be an all-in-one app and some of its features are sub-par or unnecessary. But the security features are top-notch, and that’s the main reason to use this app anyway. Just ignore the other features and you’ll be fine.
Download Now: Android, iOS [No Longer Available]
2. Avast Mobile Security (Free)
Even though I personally prefer 360, I can’t deny that Avast has long been one of the best antivirus apps for Android. It’s an all-in-one solution that protects your device from angles you didn’t even know existed.
Important features include real-time malware blocking, manual malware scanning, clean Trojan removal, phishing protection, app permissions, and availability in more than 20 languages. If you don’t trust 360, then Avast should be your next choice.
Download Now: Android
3. Kaspersky (Free, $15/yr)
Kaspersky is a well-known name in the security realm, so trust shouldn’t be an issue here. The malware and virus protection is so good that it consistently ranks among the best Android security apps at AV-Test.
This app’s subscription model might scare a few of you away, but you should know that it can actually be used indefinitely for free. The premium version offers non-crucial features like phishing protection and call blocking.
Download Now: Android
4. Linphone (Free)
If you use your smartphone for VoIP and you’re concerned about security and privacy, then you should really think about switching to Linphone: the best way to make HD calls, both audio and video, in a way that’s completely secure from end to end.
The engine and protocol are both open source, which means anyone could audit the behind-the-scenes at any time, so there’s unlikely to be any fishy business going on. It’s one of the best open source communication apps currently available.
Linphone can also send text messages, photos, and files using the same secure protocol.
5. Telegram (Free)
If you don’t care about VoIP but do care about security and privacy as far as messaging is concerned, then you should start using Telegram right away. It’s similar to WhatsApp, but better, depending on which features are important to you.
Telegram messages are stored on the cloud, so they stay in sync across all devices that have it installed. And it’s not just for one-on-one communication, as Telegram supports up to 5,000 users in group chats.
But most of all, it’s secure: messages are encrypted, you can apply self-destruct timers, all while being fast and convenient to use.
Tracking & Anti-Theft Apps
6. SafeTrek ($3/mo)
One of the best things about always carrying a smartphone on you is that you always have a way to contact somebody in case something goes wrong. SafeTrek takes that to the next level by turning your phone into a personal safety device.
Basically, when you’re feeling unsafe, you hold down the SafeTrek button on the screen. When you let go, you’ll be prompted to enter a PIN — and if you don’t, it will immediately alert local police and send them to your GPS location.
Needless to say, we consider this to be a must-have app that will change your life. Start with the 30-day free trial if you aren’t sure if the small monthly price is worth it.
7. Prey (Free, $5/mo)
The funny thing about smartphone security is that a lost phone can be worse than malware. Think about it: as soon as somebody picks up your phone, they can access pretty much everything on it.
One thing you can do is lock certain apps and services with a PIN (which we cover below using an applocker) but ultimately what you want is to recover your device, right? That’s where Prey comes into play.
Prey lets you locate your device, makes it possible to send alert messages, and even wipe the device remotely (that last one is a paid feature). It’s better if your phone isn’t stolen in the first place, but in case it happens, it’s better to have Prey on it than not.
8. Cerberus ($5/yr)
Cerberus is another anti-theft solution for Android, one that we consider to be even better than Prey. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with a free version (only a 7-day free trial, which is barely enough time to get a sense of what it can do).
Not only does it have more advanced features (like backing up your data and remote access with a Unix-like shell) but it also comes in two versions: a standard version and a disguised version where the app’s name is “System Framework” so thieves are none the wiser that Cerberus is installed.
Download Now: Android [No Longer Available]
Other Privacy Apps
9. Hotspot Shield VPN (Free, $30/yr)
Whenever possible, we recommend going with a reputable paid VPN service because the quality is often higher, there aren’t any bandwidth limits, and customer support is better.
But if you don’t want to pay anything, then Hotspot Shield is one of the best free VPN services. It lets you surf the web anonymously, it encrypts your web traffic, and it lets you circumvent regional blocks on websites and videos.
An Elite account isn’t necessary, but can be worth it for the ad-free browsing and cloud-based malware protection. Then again, if you’re going to pay, you might as well go with a premium alternative like NordVPN or Private Internet Access instead.
10. CM Security AppLock (Free)
We recently named CM Security AppLock a must-install Android security app and I stand by that judgment. There are plenty of other applockers on the Play Store, but how many can boast a 4.7 rating with just under 19 million reviews? Incredible.
With it, you can lock down certain features — like mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, specific apps, and Android settings — so that they’re inaccessible without the right PIN. Failed unlock attempts result in a photo of the intruder and an email alert.
Some devices, mainly the later Galaxy and HTC One models, also support fingerprint unlocking, which is becoming a more secure method than simple PINs.
Download Now: Android
Good Security Habits Are Priceless
As long as you have security software, you’re safe and don’t have to worry. True or false? Contrary to what most people think, that’s as false as it gets — one of the worst security-related myths that one could believe.
The truth is that practicing good security habits matters more in the long run. Security apps exist as a safety net for when you fall, but it’s better if you don’t fall to begin with.
Want to know if your security habits are good? Compare them to the online habits of security experts.
Let us know what you think of these apps. If you know of any others that deserve to be on this list, share them with us in a comment down below! We’d love to hear from you.