Locking More Than The Lock Screen: Top Security Apps For The Smartphone

Secure The Smartphone

The wide use of smartphones means that people want to do more than simply make calls. But with each new capability comes a new vulnerability. Governments, criminals and other miscreants are seeking to exploit mobile security holes for their own ends, so it's wise to take precautions before someone gains a foothold. While there's no silver bullet to protect from loss, eavesdropping, malware, identity theft and message interception, the CRN Test Center brings you the next best thing. Here's a selection of apps that together can help protect Android and iOS devices from many of today's common threats.

Location Service

Before adding any apps, it's a good idea to know what a device can already do right out of the box. Devices running Android 4.4 Kit Kat or above come with Android Device Manager, which constantly tracks device location and can plot it on a Google Map. It also can ring the phone at full volume (even if it's silenced), lock the screen and/or perform a factory reset (erasing all data). Apple's devices have had similar capabilities for several years.

On The Lookout

Many antimalware tools also add or enhance a phone's existing remote services for devices that are lost or stolen. One we like is Lookout for Android and for iOS,which is free and never in your face. Once registered, Lookout automatically scans apps whenever they're updated to find viruses, spyware and other pap. It also can back up contacts, block harmful URLs, and locate, scream, lock and wipe a lost phone, and even email a pic of the thief.

Get The RedPhone

Once malware and theft are covered, the next step might be to make sure no one's listening in on calls. RedPhone for Android and iOS uses the phone's normal dialer and contacts to place calls as usual. If the person on the other end also has RedPhone, the app offers the caller an option to switch to a "secure line." It then jumps to Wi-Fi or the carrier's data plan.

Secure SMS

The makers of RedPhone also develop TextSecure for Android, a free and open-source SMS app that replaces Android's native messaging with one that keeps SMS messages private with encryption. There's a version for iPhone called Red Phone, but it looks fairly early-stage. Instead, we recommend iEncryptText. Of course, there's always WhatsApp, which encrypts all messages and works on all platforms.

Browser By Proxy

For people that want to cover their tracks online, the Guardian Project offers Orweb, a private browser that bounces the user's encrypted traffic off geographically dispersed servers to evade tracking. It also works with Orbot, an implementation of the Tor proxy app and Onion Routing engine, which encrypts and obfuscates personal web activity to protect privacy. For iOS devices, Proxy Browse offers similar capabilities.

The Blackphone

For people who need absolute security, there's Blackphone, the result of a collaboration between Spanish startup GeeksPhone and Silent Circle, a U.S. developer building security apps for Android and iOS. Built from the ground up to be bullet-proof, Blackphone will run a custom-made version of Android called PrivatOS, which reportedly contains a better crypto engine and other small improvements, and is fully compatible with the mainstream distribution. Blackphone will ship unlocked in June, listing for $629 plus between $10 and $24 a month.