5 Ways to Communicate Safely on Your Smartphone — Keep Police & Big Data Out of Your Conversations « Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks

it is well documented that what you say and do online is tracked. Yes, private organizations do their best to protect your data from hackers, but that protection does not extend to themselves, advertisers, and law enforcement.

Whether you are a journalist, a protester or a high-ranking official, there are times when communication must be conducted with a high degree of certainty that the information will not be accessible by unauthorized parties. While there is no way to guarantee a 100% secure line, there are things you can do to improve it significantly.

Tip 1. Use an encrypted messenger

If you are still communicating via SMS, stop immediately.

Everything you send and receive according to this dated standard, created in the 80’s, is unencrypted, as it goes around the web, which means that it can be easily read by someone else with the right tools. Encryption protects your messages by locking them in a digital safe, accessible only to those with the correct key.

But having an encrypted system is not enough; must be tested. Ideally, it should be open source, where the code can be viewed by anyone. At the time of writing, the gold standard is here Signal Private Messenger.

  • Install Signal Private Messenger: Android (free of charge) iOS (Free)

Signal uses the Signal Protocol, considered one of the best encryption protocols on the market. Used by most major messages, including iMessage and WhatsApp. With Signal your messages and calls are encrypted from end to end, a fantastic way to say that the whole process (from sending to transit and delivery) is secure.

What makes Signal Private Messenger special, however, is the limited amount of metadata it captures. Metadata is “data data,” information about sent and received packets, including time, location, and user, that can still be received from encrypted messages. When there is enough of this, it is easy to draw who sent the message and what it might be about.

Tip 2. Use offline messages for local communication

An even safer form of communication takes place offline. Messages that do not travel through traditional attack surfaces, such as Wi-Fi or mobile data, are much more difficult to intercept.

Bridgefy is an application that uses Bluetooth to send direct messages to close users without the Internet. Bluetooth users can send encrypted messages directly. You can communicate with users up to 660 feet away, thanks to a feature known as “Eye Mode”, which turns Bridegfy devices into relay points between you and the recipient, while maintaining your security.

Tip 3. Get a super secure phone

No matter what type of phone you have, it is not 100% safe. While some phones do better protecting you from hackers, they do not protect you against data collection by your wireless operators or by yourself. If you don’t compromise on your privacy, what you need is a phone specifically designed to protect your data – and right now that means Purism Librem 5.

Each component of Purism Librem 5 takes into account privacy and security. Starting with the operating system, Librem 5 uses PureOS, an open source operating system based on Linux. Apart from strengthening the charging process and using multiple layers of protection, it also does not include any trackers. It even has a removable battery so you can turn off your phone completely.

Image via Purism

The phone has three physical switches that turn off the power of certain sensors – one for WiFi, one for cellular data and one for the camera and microphone. If all three are off, GPS will be disabled.

It is also the first phone powered by the Matrix, an open network that provides encrypted phone calls and end-to-end messages. Matrix it can also exchange data and messages with other platforms using an open standard.

Tip 4. Get the Stingray Detector app (Android)

Stingrays are devices that pose as cell towers, allowing the operator to attack from the middle of any device connected to it. This is a common tool used by law enforcementlocated in cars, vans and even airplanes to track targets that have in the past included protesters.

As a fake cell tower, while Stringray provides the strongest signal, devices will connect to it. In a small town, this could mean hundreds of telephones, many of which have nothing to do with the police investigation.

To protect your data from this mass surveillance, you can either choose a more secure phone, such as Librem 5or install a Stringray detector application. SnoopSnitch captures mobile radio data, examines its contents, and alerts you to potential threats, including potential Stingrays. When you receive this warning, you can protect yourself by putting your phone in airplane mode until you leave the area.

Tip 5. Use a VPN

Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the easiest ways to add layered protection. A VPN redirects all data to a server that acts as an intermediary between you and the rest of the Internet. All incoming and outgoing packets are sent first through it, adding a wall of protection. In addition, your device is given a new IP address that allows you to maintain a certain level of privacy while interacting on the network.

Do I need a VPN? No. But the addition doesn’t hurt and gives hackers, ISPs and government officials something else to penetrate before reaching the messages in question. Having a VPN that records little in any of your data will protect you in case the service is compromised. You can check out our testing using the link below, but for TL; DR, CyberGhost is one of the best options available.

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Cover image and screenshots by Jon Knight / Gadget Hacks