If you’re anything like us, you probably spend a great deal of your time glued to your smartphone or tablet. And with every activity on those devices involving an internet connection, it’s vital that our apps and data are secured from hackers and malicious snooping. In this article, we’re going to give you a brief overview of why you need to protect your online activity with a VPN, and then review three of our favorite VPN services for Android.
So What Exactly Is A VPN?
VPN is the acronym for “Virtual Private Network”. When a VPN is installed on your Android device, instead of connecting to the internet directly, the phone or tablet will first connect to the VPN’s server, which will then connect to the wider internet.
In effect, the VPN acts as a go-between for connecting to the web, creating an encrypted “tunnel” that prevents third parties from snooping on your data. When connected to a VPN, you’ll be able to do all of the normal things you might want to do on the internet, using an external IP address through a server that masks your real location.
Why Use A VPN On Your Android Device?
When you’re out and about in public, you almost certainly use your phone or tablet to connect to free WiFi networks. These public hotspots can be targeted by hackers and fraudsters, who can intercept your data and in some cases, steal confidential information. If you regularly check your banking apps, log in to social media accounts or send emails whilst on a public network, you have a very real risk of having your data intercepted and stolen.
With a VPN in place, your data and browsing activity are kept safe, because everything that you send or receive on your device is funneled through an encrypted connection to the VPN’s server.
In addition to WiFi security, a VPN hides your location, IP address and browsing history. That means that your phone carrier or internet service provider are unable to view and log your entire browsing history. It also means that you can spoof being in a different country, giving you access to region specific content on Netflix and other services that isn’t available in your part of the world.
Are VPNs Difficult To Use?
Absolutely not! Most VPNs these days are extremely simple to use. Once you’ve paid for an account, all you’ll need to do is download the accompanying Android app and enter your login details.
There’s little or no technical steps required to get up and running. You’ll simply have to decide upon a server location and whether you want to have the VPN running all the time. After that, your device will work as normal and you shouldn’t even notice that the VPN is there.
How To Choose An Android VPN
These days, there’s a huge selection of VPN providers to choose from. You can test out a free VPN service if simply want to understand how the technology works, but we’d suggest opting for a better quality paid offering, as you’ll almost certainly get faster speeds, and you won’t have to put up with annoying adverts or data limits.
When it comes to subscription based VPN services, there are a few things to look out for when selecting a quality provider:
- Check that the speeds and response time are good.
- Make sure the service doesn’t limit data.
- Check the data logging policy.
- Find out what encryption the company uses.
- Make sure there are plenty of server locations to choose from.
- If you’re concerned about privacy, research where the company is based.
- Look for additional features like adblocking and multi-hop services.
The Five, Nine & 14 Eyes
“The Five Eyes alliance is an intelligence-sharing arrangement between five English-speaking democracies: the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It evolved during the Cold War” – BBC News
The arrangement later added Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway, becoming The Nine Eyes, and eventually Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden to create The 14 Eyes. These countries are known to actively gather information about their citizens and share it with each other when needed, effectively spying on their citizens. If you’re concerned about your online privacy, you should choose a VPN that’s based outside of these jurisdictions.
If that all sounds a little complicated, you’re in luck: We’ve tested a variety of VPN services for Android over the years, and we think we’ve narrowed it down to three subscription based services that each provide fantastic value for money:
ExpressVPN: The Best All Round Android VPN
Decent pricing, a large selection of servers around the world and a base in the British Virgin Islands make this popular VPN service a solid all-round choice. ExpressVPN logs a very minimal amount of data, and doesn’t collect any of your browsing history at all. In addition, the service works well with video streaming sites and even rotates your IP address to deter hackers and tracking.
Why We Like ExpressVPN:
- 148 locations and a massive 2,000 servers.
- Registered in the British Virgin Islands.
- Variable IP addresses.
- Works well with Netflix.
Things That Aren’t So Great:
- Only five devices can use the account at the same time.
- Customer support isn’t always easy to access.
- Can be slow if you’re a Mac user.
- Good value, but not the cheapest option.
ExpressVPN offers an introductory deal priced at $99.95 for the first 15 months of use, then the same price every 12 months after that. It’s also possible to buy a single month for $12.95 and 6 months for $59.95. There’s a 30 day money back guarantee if you decide that the service isn’t right for you.
NordVPN: The Best Android VPN For The Privacy Conscious
Nord VPN is a very popular service offering a wide range of speedy servers in multiple countries, and is based in Panama, meaning the company has no obligation to hand over your data to your government’s intelligence agency. With that being said, Nord doesn’t actually log your data at all, so there wouldn’t be much to hand over anyway!
Nord allows P2P sharing, works well with video streaming services, and even offered a multi-hop, double encrypted tunnel for extra peace of mind.
Why We Like NordVPN:
- A really stable and mature Android app.
- Great security.
- Strong encryption.
- P2P allowed.
- Great value.
Things That Aren’t So Great:
- Static IP addresses only.
- Occasional iOS app connectivity issues.
- Throws up more Google ReCapcha requests than others.
Nord VPN offers tiered pricing just like many other VPN services for Android. There’s a month-to-month option for $11.95, a $6.99 per month option if you pay for a year up front, a $4.99 per month option if you pay for 2 years at once, and a $3.49 option if you’re prepared to shell out $125.64 for a three year plan.
CyberGhost: The Best Android VPN For Casual Users
CyberGhost is a great option for casual VPN users who are looking for a low-cost service for watching the occasional Netflix show in a different county, or browsing the internet in a café or airport.
CyberGhost has top notch security credentials with AES-256 encryption, an automatic kill switch that blocks the internet if connection to the VPN is lost, and really affordable pricing.
What We Like:
- Great value.
- Solid security and privacy.
- Large list of servers.
- Awesome customer support.
Things That Aren’t So Great:
- Static IP addresses.
- No multi-hop or split-tunneling.
- More logging than other services.
- Can be slow when used on desktop PCs.
CyberGhost has 4 pricing tiers available: If you buy 3 years of service up front, the VPN works out at just $2.25 per month. This makes CyberGhost one of the cheapest VPN services for Android around. There’s also a 2 year, 1 year and monthly subscription, coming in at $83.76, $47.88 and $12.99 respectively.
A Paid VPN Service is Money Well Spent
With more and more of us connected to the internet 24/7, it’s becoming increasingly prudent to ensure that your cybersecurity is taken care of. Using one of the better VPN services for Android is a highly effective way to keep your online activities private and your data out of the hands off snoopers and thieves. Sign up to one of suggested services today, and stay safe out there!
Is Your Phone Hacked? How To Find Out & Protect Yourself
Unless you’re dealing with an extremely sophisticated piece of malware, there are often obvious clues that your smartphone is under attack, or already compromised by hackers or viruses.
Is your phone hacked? These days, most people are pretty switched on when it comes to the dangers of computer viruses and hacked PCs. We’ve all become pretty paranoid about clicking weird email links and downloading random files from dubious websites. Yet, for all of the effort we put into keeping our PCs safe from malware and hackers, our smartphones often get neglected when it comes to cybersecurity.
Sure, the average iPhone or Android device is leagues ahead of an outdated version of Windows when it comes to security, but if you think that your phone is impervious to infiltration by criminals and scammers, think again.
In this guide, we’ll explain how your phone can be targeted by cybercriminals, show you some of the telltale signs that your device has been compromised, and finally, give you some vital tips to rescue your phone and data from the clutches of the hackers.
How To Tell If Your Phone Has Been Hacked
Unless you’re dealing with an extremely sophisticated piece of malware, there are often obvious clues that your smartphone is under attack, or already compromised by hackers or viruses. Here are some of the most prevalent side effects of a hacked smartphone:
The Battery Drains Extremely Quickly
All phone batteries degrade over time, resulting in a device that won’t hold a charge for as long as it used to. However, in the case of a hacked smartphone, the power can sometimes drain extremely rapidly for no apparent reason.
“Phone spyware stays active all the time, so it quickly saps power and drains the battery, so this could be a sign that your cell phone has been compromised” – Tim Lynch, PhD, Psychsoftpc.com.
Your Data Use Has Skyrocketed
A really obvious sign that your phone has been hacked or contains a malware app is a huge spike in data usage: Typically, a hacked phone will upload large chunks of information, which will show up in your data usage when away from your home WiFi network. Downloading an app like “Data Usage” can help you to monitor for any irregular activity outside of your normal online activities.
The Phone Is Really Hot
Going hand-in-hand with a quickly draining battery and large spikes in data use, a super hot phone can be a sign that you’re device is compromised. If you regularly find that your phone’s exterior case is hot to the touch, even when idle, you may have a hacked handset.
Overall Performance Is Sluggish
If you regularly experience crashes, slow performance or a delay when making calls or sending texts even after a restart, there’s a chance that your phone has been hijacked.
The Phone Has Dialed/Texted Numbers Without Your Input
Here’s a scary scenario: You’re informed by some of your contacts that you’ve bombarded them with weird text messages or automated phone calls, but you have no knowledge of anything untoward ever happening. If you ever experience this kind of behavior from your phone, it’s a sure bet that you’ve been hacked.
You’re Experiencing Lots Of Pop-Ups & Random App Installs
Remember those PC viruses that slowly strangled your machine with pop-ups and installed weird spam applications that you didn’t authorize? Well this kind of hack is starting gain traction in the smartphone world now too.
Your Gmail Or iCloud Accounts Are Acting Strangely
Services like iCloud and Gmail are rich targets for hackers, as they contain a lot of sensitive information that could be exploited for theft or extortion. Typical signs that your main accounts have been hacked include password reset notifications that you didn’t make, as well as security checks and verification emails telling you that you’ve added a new device.
So How Did Your Smartphone Get Hacked?
Now that you can spot a few of the signs that indicate your phone is compromised, you’re probably wondering how a phone hack could happen in the first place? Surely modern smartphones aren’t that easy to sabotage?
The reality is that hacking a modern phone is virtually impossible without an error of judgement from the device’s owner. Here are some common mistakes that could leave you vulnerable to foul play:
Downloading Malware App
As a general rule, it’s much easier to inadvertently download a dubious app on the Google Play Store than on Apple’s App Store, as the former is less likely to vet their apps quite as vigorously. Android devices also tend to be owned by people who prefer to customize their phone’s operating system, and this can lead to downloads from places outside of the official marketplace.
Opening A Dubious Link
From fake bank or credit card emails to files sent to you from a friend’s already compromised device or app, clicking the links contained inside of “Phishing” emails is a surefire way to get yourself into trouble.
Using Compromised Passwords
Reusing passwords is a huge error, and one of the most simple ways for hackers to gain access to your Google or iCloud accounts. Once a thief gains access to your main accounts, it’s extremely difficult to keep in control of the situation, leading to devastating results.
Charging Your Device At A Public USB Point
If you’re low on power when out and about in public, try to resist the urge to charge your device using a public USB socket. Hackers have been known to hide devices in these chargers, allowing them to control your device with the intention of adding secret apps and malware via the USB input, including key loggers that can monitor everything you type into your apps.
If you do need to top up your phone in public, always use your own USB charger to ensure you’re not connected to anything malicious.
Using Free WiFi
Free WiFi is super convenient and avoids draining your phone’s data plan. However, unless you use a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to the free WiFi in coffee shops and airports, there’s a chance that your data could be intercepted as it bounces back and forth between your device and the wireless base station.
What To Do If Your Phone Gets Hacked
If you have a suspicion that your smartphone has been hacked, try not to panic. Phone hacks can be serious, but if you act immediately to limit the damage, you should be able to recover from the attack:
Change All Of Your Passwords Immediately
Even if your device hasn’t been hacked, changing your passwords now and then can help to give you peace of mind that your data is safe. Make sure all of your passwords are unique, and make them hard to crack. If the option is available, always use two factor authentication, especially on mission-critical services like your Google account or iCloud.
Monitor Your Financial Accounts
Once you have your major passwords secure, go through all of your financial services, such as bank accounts and credit cards, checking for any out of the ordinary purchases or charges. If you see anything suspicious, immediately contact your bank or card provider, and they will begin the process of reimbursing you for your losses and investigating the fraud.
Use Google Play Protect
Apple users won’t typically need to worry about compromised apps, but for Android users suspicious of a data breach via a downloaded app, it’s good practice to use Google Play Protect to scan for (and remove) malware on your phone.
To check your device, go to the Google Play Store app, click the three-line icon in the top-left left corner of your screen. Next, tap Google Play Protect, then hit the scan button.
Factory Reset Your Phone
If your phone does have malware or a virus, it’s usually best practice to bite the bullet and wipe the device clean with a factory reset. Doing this will erase all the data on the phone, so it’s vital that you have everything backed up somewhere in the cloud so that you can quickly get back up and running with minimal losses.
Learn How To Protect Yourself From Hackers & Malware
Many smartphone users still aren’t sufficiently clued up to spot a phishing scam or dubious app before it’s too late. With data theft and hacking continually on the rise, it’s imperative that you wise up, toughen your privacy settings and passwords, and learn as much as you can about data theft and online security.
Do some research, stay safe, and never get your phone hacked again with these simple tips!