This week Apple told the FBI that it wouldn't help crack into a password-protected smartphone used by one of the San Bernardino killers. The ensuing debate has lead to a firestorm of comments from privacy rights advocates and security experts. But at the end of the day, the outcome of the court battle could impact every one of us — the smartphone-carrying public. So just how secure is your own digital life? In early 2015, a Pew survey found that 93 percent of adults said that it is important to be in control of who can get information about them, and 90 percent said it is important to manage which information is out there about them. With that in mind, we are going to provide you with some handy tools to keep your communications and Internet activities out of the limelight.
For $12 a year, this app will not only generate elaborate passwords guaranteed to pass muster with anyone as being truly difficult to guess, but it will memorize them for you and (if you have the proper Web browser extension installed) enter them for you immediately. It's a truly dependable way to know that no malicious goofball will ever sneak into your email account without your permission. [Free; itunes.apple.com]
When the United States Naval Research Laboratory developed the decentralized Tor network as a means of browsing the Internet, they couldn't have had any idea it would go on to facilitate the infamous Silk Road online contraband market. This network (and the smartphone app that lets you access it) grants you access to the Web in such a way that no one can easily identify who you are online or monitor your browsing history, making it a godsend for the paranoiac. [Free; itunes.apple.com]
Perhaps your friends think it's a great gag to take your Android phone and mess with it. "Strange," you might say upon revisiting a formerly familiar text message conversation. "I don't remember sexting my parents." HiddenEye is an app that, when activated, snaps a picture of the person who tries to unlock your phone. Simultaneously, you know who did it and you have proof of that person's misdeeds. [Free; play.google.com]
Not only is it a perfectly delightful messaging app to use with your friends — enjoy free file transfers, rich link previews, voice messages, and everything you'd expect out of a robust messenger — but it is encrypted and secure as hell. Communicate with confidence, knowing that your messages are being delivered only to their intended recipient, safe from the prying eyes of anyone who might have cause (or the significant technical means required) to intercept your message en route. [Free; itunes.apple.com]
Find My iPhone
If it hasn't happened to you yet, then it will happen eventually: You'll misplace your iPhone or otherwise see it out of your possession in a way that leaves you panicky. But all is not lost. When you configure Find My iPhone in advance, you can remotely disable your phone, rendering it useless to any prying thieves, and follow its GPS beacon to wherever it is, hopefully reclaiming it as your own. The only important detail, however, is that you set it up in advance. [Free; itunes.apple.com]
Where's My Droid
This is merely the Android-flavored take on the same idea. You've lost your phone and don't know where it is. Fire up this app on another Android device to make your missing smartphone ring and vibrate, get notifications if someone changes the SIM card, track its GPS location on a map, and generally save the day by getting it back into your hands. [Free; play.google.com]
Perhaps you are the type who would rather keep certain photos, videos, and other media out of easy sight. iDiscrete is an app that functions like a secure "locker" for such sensitive files, without even looking like an app that is designed for doing so. If an unauthorized user attempts to access the app, they are presented with a fake "loading" screen that is actually a screen for a proper user to enter his or her password. Once inside, you'll have access to your files as needed. [$3; itunes.apple.com]
McAfee Security & Power Booster
McAfee is one of the de facto names in computer security and antivirus protection for your personal computer, and now it's arrived on your smartphone. This app offers a suite of anti-theft and virus-squashing features for your Android device. Use it to control what websites can and cannot do to your phone as you browse. If you hate ads, be sure to subscribe to the premium features, which squashes the ads and grants you access to voice support over the phone. [Free; play.google.com]
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