It almost goes without saying: If you want the most privacy on your smartphone, you choose an iPhone over an Android device. Because of Apple’s business model of selling highly profitable hardware, the company doesn’t need to mine data about its users to make a buck.
And thanks to techniques Apple uses, like differential privacy, Apple devices send 10 times less data to the company than Android devices send to Google–and that’s according to independent researchers. It’s no wonder that in the past year, Apple has aggressively advertised that one of the reasons you buy an iPhone is for privacy.
While every iPhone user should take advantage of all the built-in privacy and security settings the phone offers, you can make your iPhone even more secure and private by using third-party apps. While the following list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good starting point.
From a privacy standpoint, iOS’s built-in Safari browser is one of the best you could ask for. While chances are good you’re already using Safari on your iPhone, if you want the most privacy protection possible while browsing the web, you should engage in browser compartmentalization. That’s the practice of using one web browser for sites you need to log into (like social media, banking, and shopping sites) and another browser for all your other browsing.
Firefox Focus is a great choice for your secondary (or primary) browser, because it’s built around privacy. The Mozilla-made app automatically blocks online trackers and can be set to automatically delete your browsing history, passwords, and cookies from the last session whenever you close the app. Oh yeah, you can also protect access to the app with Face ID or Touch ID.
VPN by Private Internet Access
In 2019, you should be using a VPN to protect your internet traffic and browsing history from prying eyes–be they unscrupulous third parties or your ISP. But if you perform a search for “VPN” in the App Store, you’ll find tons of “free” VPN apps. These should be avoided at all costs, as the companies behind them are most likely mining your browsing history for advertising purposes.
While there are several good, paid VPNs out there, one of the best, say experts, is Private Internet Access. It’s so good because it offers a true “no logs” policy, which means it doesn’t keep any record of your internet browsing history. Plans start at $6.95 a month and go down to $3.33 a month if you pay in yearly chunks.
If you use Messenger or WhatsApp and would prefer to do your messaging using an app not owned by Facebook, you should seriously consider switching to Signal. I know, why not Apple’s own Messages? While Messages is a great choice for iPhone users, the app isn’t available on Android devices, which some of your friends may have.
So short of Apple bringing Messages to Android (which will probably never happen) the best cross-platform messaging app to use from a privacy standpoint is Signal, the app made by the Signal Foundation, the nonprofit cofounded by WhatsApp creator Brian Acton and endorsed by Edward Snowden. Signal is pretty much WhatsApp if WhatsApp wasn’t owned by Facebook.
Many social media services offer settings that allow you to choose the level of privacy you want on their platform. But some, like Facebook, make this privacy setting harder to find and use than they should. That’s where Jumbo comes in. The app can automatically audit your privacy settings for a variety of accounts, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon’s Alexa. With a few taps, it can automatically set your privacy options to the max on those accounts.
iCloud Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive: all are excellent cloud storage services that easily let you access your data from anywhere. However, none offers end-to-end encryption. A hacker who got around any of these services’ security protections would have free rein to read all your documents. That’s where Cryptomator comes in. The app allows you to automatically encrypt documents before you upload them to your cloud account. This means that even if your cloud account is compromised—such as if someone gets your password—your files would be safely encrypted.
Speaking of people trying to steal your data, Lookout is an app that basically acts s a security alarm for your data. It can alert you when your data is exposed online–for example, through a data breach or identify theft. The app also keeps you safe from phishing sites by warning you if you go to a suspicious site and can even tell you if the Wi-Fi network you join is under attack by hackers.
With Fing, your iPhone can reveal if other people are accessing your Wi-Fi network and perhaps intercepting your internet traffic. It allows you to see all the devices connected to your current Wi-Fi network, and it tells you what they are.
Don’t recognize a device Fing has detected? It could mean someone is stealing your Wi-Fi signal to get free Internet access–or worse, that someone is using your Wi-Fi to steal your data. Fing is also a great way to find out if your Airbnb host is spying on you with hidden wireless cameras.
If an online account you use offers two-factor authentication (2FA), you should definitely enable it. 2FA works by requiring you to enter a randomly generated code in addition to your password. By default this code is delivered to the user via text message each time they attempt to log in, but a safer way to get 2FA codes is by using an authenticator app.
An authenticator app cycles through randomly generated codes for each of your accounts. These codes work even if you don’t have an internet connection or access to your cellular service and are safer than getting codes via text messages that a bad guy could steal using SIM swapping. One of the best authenticator apps out there is Microsoft Authenticator.
If you want to keep your accounts as secure as they can be, even you shouldn’t know your passwords. Instead, you should use a password manager that automatically creates and enters a unique password for every website and app you use. One of the best and most popular password managers is 1Password, which has versions for Android devices, Macs, and Windows PCs, as well as your iPhone.