Android privacy tips: 8 ways to secure your smartphone before Trump takes power

Android privacy tips: 8 ways to secure your smartphone before Trump takes power
Source: AP
Source: AP

Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States and the 61,039,251 (and counting) Americans who didn't vote for the Republican candidate have a growing concern: Will he misuse his power? As of April 2015, nearly two-thirds of Americans are smartphone owners. Now that Trump slated to be in charge of the government's surveillance networks, phone security is a more pertinent issue than ever.

As president, Trump will have authority over the NSA. Trump has already said he wants surveillance of mosques in the U.S., and it's hard to say what other people and places he wants to spy on. Since the NSA operates entirely in secret, we may never know. But we can protect ourselves. 


How can Android users be secure under a Trump presidency? You can start with these eight tips:

1. Encrypt your smartphone

Android users can opt in for encryption, a method to protect information stored on a device by scrambling it to make it unreadable without a key. To check if your handset is encrypted, open the "Settings" app and select "Security" from the options menu. Then, select the section called "Encryption" to see the status of your smartphone. If you see something along the lines of "encrypt device" then it means your Android phone is not encrypted yet.

2. Set up a strong password

When encrypting an Android phone for the first time, users will need to set up a password, numeric PIN code, fingerprint or a pattern to unlock the device. Since the key to unlocking a device is only known only to its owner, Android users should be aware that getting locked out means they will have to factory reset the device, which will delete all the encrypted information.

The best general tip for a secure code, password or pattern is to make it random and as long or convoluted as it can be. For passwords, make sure they include different cases, numbers, letters and symbols. Security appliance firm SplashData releases an annual report spotlighting the worst passwords and users can take a peak to see what passwords to avoid. There are also several services — 1Password, LastPass, KeePass or Dashlane — that help users create strong passwords while anonymizing and storing their passwords.

Services help users create strong passwords while anonymizing and storing their passwords.
Source: 
1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane via Google Play Store

3. Use apps offering end-to-end encryption

There are no shortage of ways to communicate and organize, but some platforms are more secure than others. The key is to look for end-to-end encryption, which means nobody aside from the individuals involved in the communication can have access to the information.

While Facebook Messenger features end-to-end encryption, which users have to opt into by opening a "secret conversation," Facebook Groups offers no such protection. Apps like WhatsApp, Semaphor and Signal also provide end-to-end encryption. The Verge warns, however, that WhatsApp stores chat logs and even shares individual data with Facebook. Signal, on the other hand, is well received by cryptographers, does not store metadata and, according to data from App Annie, downloads for the encrypted messaging app have spiked since Trump got elected.

4. Use two-factor authentication whenever offered

Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, requires users to put in a password and another piece of information that only they know. Quartz reports that a "second layer of security" is important and apps offering two-factor authentication include Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Slack, WordPress, Evernote, iCloud, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Box and Instagram.

5. Use a different browser

Google's convenience is undeniable, but the tech giant knows everything about your life through its search engine and its many apps and services. Those who use larger search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo might want to consider stepping away from the big names to something that won't track you like DuckDuckGo — the Android mobile app version of the browser is available for free in the Google Play store.

DuckDuckGo is a web browser that won't track your searches.
Source: 
DuckDuckGo

6. Update your device and apps regularly

Most updates for phones and apps sort out kinks and security bugs so it is in the user's best security interest to stay on top of any available updates. 

7. Leave your phone behind when necessary

Phones can be hacked and sophisticated hackers can listen in and watch you through your device. For those worried about that, the Intercept recommends stashing your phone at a safe distance where nobody can hear or see you.

8. Get a new phone

Those truly committed to their security may want to consider a new phone. According to ZDNet, some of the most secure Android phones are Silent Circle Blackphone 2, the German CryptoPhone 500i, Boeing Black and Sirin Labs Solarin.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

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