Manual Android Apps Security

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Aside from using strong passwords, the smartest thing you can do to keep your online accounts safe is to use two-factor authentication everywhere it's offered. Two-factor authentication requires you to have a second form of identifying information — like a code generated by an app on your phone — in addition to your primary password, thus making it substantially more difficult for a modern-day ruffian to get into your account. The best app for managing two-factor authentication on Android is Authy. The Twilio-owned program outshines Google's own Authenticator offering with a modern, intuitive design that makes it a cinch to find and copy codes for any number of 2FA-enabled accounts.

It has handy advanced features like support for app-level fingerprint protection, too, and you can even set Authy up to function on multiple devices — including, if you're so inclined, your desktop computer. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, can be an effective way of keeping your phone-based data transmissions private and secure — particularly when you're using public Wi-Fi networks, which are notorious for letting outsiders "snoop" and see all sorts of sensitive info from your sessions.

Your best bet for work is to use your company's own VPN service, assuming an app for it is available. If not, NordVPN is one of the most widely recommended third-party options, earning strong praise from privacy guru and frequent Computerworld contributor Steven J.

The service taps into nearly 5, servers across five dozen countries and promises "military-grade" encryption for all your mobile traffic. Now, all of this isn't to say that other Android VPN providers won't be effective. Evaluating a VPN app is incredibly complex and difficult to do definitively — and the number of variables involved makes it virtually impossible to offer an unconditional recommendation.

The good folks at Ars Technica sum up the challenge well. Heck, one look at this comparison chart by That One Privacy Site — a highly regarded independent VPN reviewer cited by the Electronic Frontier Foundation , among other noteworthy organizations — is enough to make you want to crawl into a bunker and live a life free from all networked technology.

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Until we have a standardized system for effectively auditing VPNs and their many layers, most privacy experts suggest going with a well-reviewed and widely evaluated service from a reputable provider. NordVPN fits that description to a T — more so than any other contender at the moment — hence its inclusion in this collection. When you need to know your emails won't be intercepted, ProtonMail is the app you want to use.

Founded by scientists at CERN the European Organization for Nuclear Research , ProtonMail uses an open-source method of end-to-end encryption to keep your messages safe from prying eyes. You don't have to provide any personal information, and the company says it keeps no records of IP addresses or anything else that could link you to your account.

In fact, the company says even its own employees couldn't read or access your messages if they wanted to. Robot , by the way — where master hacker Elliot Alderson uses the app to secure transmissions — as well as in the news by way of Cambridge Analytica, the "data analytics" firm at the center of the Facebook data debacle, which apparently used ProtonMail to create secure and self-destructing messages. The best part about all of ProtonMail's security is that it requires next to no effort on your behalf: You simply create an account with the service and then email away.

If you're emailing someone else with a ProtonMail address, encryption is automatic. If you need to contact someone with a non-ProtonMail address, you can tap an icon in the app's compose tool to create a password and a hint; the recipient will then be sent only that information and will have to use the password to decrypt your message. ProtonMail's encryption is both effective and easy to use — even with recipients who aren't using ProtonMail themselves. Security aside, ProtonMail's Android app is cleanly designed and pleasant to use. The app has customizable labels and folders and even allows you to define custom swipe gestures for your inbox swiping left on a message to mark it as read, for instance, and swiping right to archive or delete.

And, yes, it has an option for creating self-destructing messages, should the need ever arise.

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ProtonMail is free at its most basic level, which includes one address, MB of storage, and up to messages a day. Signal does for texting what ProtonMail does for email: The open-source service allows you to communicate securely with contacts, using end-to-end encryption and without any of your data ever being accessed or stored on a remote server. The app also now allows you to conduct encrypted voice and video calls with other Signal users. On the surface, Signal looks and feels just like any other texting app: You can find people from your regular contacts database or simply enter a phone number to start a conversation.

If the other person also uses Signal, the conversation will be secure — and you'll see the option to launch a secure voice or video chat as well. If your recipient isn't using Signal, you'll still be able to text normally and will see a prominent "Unsecured SMS" warning in the message field. Signal feels like any other texting app, but when you communicate with another Signal user, all of your transmissions are automatically encrypted.

Mobile App Security Test

Signal is free, and no accounts are required; you just open the app, input and then verify your phone number, and you're ready to roll. Firefox Focus provides the simplest and most effortless private browsing experience on Android. Quite literally, all you do is open the app and go: No history, cookies, or passwords are ever saved, and the app automatically blocks trackers and ads across the web.

When you're done with a page, you tap a floating trash can icon in the corner of the screen, and poof: It's gone forever, with no trail left behind. Firefox Focus, which is free, has a handful of settings for controlling the nuances of its blocking features, but there's really not much more to it. If you want to browse the web without leaving a trace at least, as far as the browser itself is concerned , this is by far the easiest way to do it.

Store data

Note: Mozilla recently announced that it is putting the development of Focus on hold as it works on a new Android browser, currently called Firefox Preview and due to be released later this year. The company says that the new app will have all the privacy features of Focus combined with full browser features, and it sounds like it may eventually replace Focus. For private browsing power in a more traditional browser environment, Brave Browser is the way to go. The free app — created by a co-founder of Mozilla , the company behind Firefox — looks and acts an awful lot like Google's Chrome Android browser.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the program uses Google's open source Chromium code as its base. Brave's main interface and menus are almost undistinguishable from Chrome's, in fact, and the app even has Chrome-reminiscent History, Downloads, and Bookmarks sections along with features for auto-filling information and saving passwords though the data from those areas won't sync with your Google account or be available on other devices, as it would in Chrome.

On top of that foundation, however, Brave includes a variety of built-in tools for blocking ads, pop-ups, scripts, and different types of website-based tracking systems. Unlike Firefox Focus, it doesn't operate in a permanent incognito mode — so if you want to avoid having your history, cookies, site data, and cache saved, you'll have to either manually open incognito windows just like you would in Chrome or dig through the app's settings to clear that data whenever needed.

It's less of a no-frills, purely private browser and more of a standard browser with additional privacy features baked in — which could be an asset or a liability, depending on your preferences. Apps often require sensitive system permissions in order to perform their full range of functions — but if you tap into some of those functions only on occasion, you might not want to leave the associated permissions active forever. The aptly named Bouncer app is an easy way to make your permission decisions more nuanced.

With Bouncer on your phone, every time you give an app a new permission — be it for accessing your location, getting on the internet, viewing your phone's storage, or whatever the case may be — you'll see a notification appear at the top of your device.

How to Secure Your Android Device

You can tap that notification to tell Bouncer to remove the permission as soon as you exit the app by switching to another app or returning to your home screen or after a set amount of time. Say, for instance, you're tasked with tweeting from a professional conference, and you want your location to be associated with any tweets you send during the event — but you don't want Twitter to retain access to your phone's location eternally.

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Just grant Twitter the needed location permission, look for the Bouncer notification, and give Bouncer the order to take the permission away when the day is over. Bouncer allows you to grant permissions to Android apps temporarily and then have them revoked without any effort. You can even have Bouncer remove a permission automatically every time it's granted — so something like that Twitter location access can effectively become a temporary permission instead of an ongoing authorization. Most current Android phones come with encryption enabled out of the box you can check by looking for the "Encryption" option within the Security section of your device's system settings — but if you want an extra layer of protection for certain files or folders, Solid Explorer will get the job done.

As an Android file manager , Solid Explorer lets you browse and manipulate the files on your device's local storage as well as on a variety of third-party cloud storage services — including Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive — if you choose to connect them.


When you have a file or folder you want to protect, you just find and highlight it within the app and then select "Encrypt" from the main menu. After that, all you have to do is type in a password and optionally activate fingerprint authentication, and the file will then be viewable only after your credentials have been entered.

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Even system-level services like the Android Downloads app won't be able to open the file unless you first decrypt it in Solid Explorer. You configure Timber in Your Application class. And log anywhere in your app like this. You can check this article for advanced logging with Timber. This means that files cannot be accessed by any other app on the device. As an added security measure, when the user uninstalls an app, the device deletes all files that the app saved within internal storage. You can access it like this. A bonus point encrypt that data before storing it on the desk.

Some developers use Broadcast to make some communication between different components of the app like communicating between background service and an Activity. But if you use it to process user private data never use a normal Broadcast because other apps can register it and listen to your events. This Github Gist shows you how to use it to communicate between a service and an Activity.

You can check this article for more details. Because WebView consumes web content any common web security issue like cross-site-scripting , etc can affect your app. Check the Android documentation to see how to secure your WebView. All of us use third party libraries to achieve common tasks in android like networking, loading images from the network, database, etc. Most of these libraries are updated on a regular basis to improve performance, security and add new features.

So always update all your libraries to gain these benefits because some versions of the libraries may introduce you a security vulnerability and they fix it in the next version. Note here when you add a library to your app, It basically has the same access as your app code. So be very careful which libraries you add to your project because if you add a bad one all of the other security tips will be useless. So to prevent that make sure to set the service exported flag to false.

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Like this. You probably also use a content provider to load the data in your app. To prevent leaking your data make sure to also set the exported flag to false like this. You may need to store some data on External Storage since the internal storage capacity of an Android device is often limited. So you have no other choice.

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Because data on external storage can be directly accessed by both users and other apps on the device, it is important that you store it in an encrypted format. One of the most popular encryption algorithms is AES, short for Advanced Encryption Standard , with a key size of bits. Therefore, You can use third-party libraries, such as Facebook's Conceal library, which are usually much easier to work with. You should Perform input validation when handling data from external storage as you would with data from an untrusted source.

You should not store executables or class files on external storage prior to dynamic loading. If your app does retrieve executable files from external storage, the files should be signed and cryptographically verified prior to dynamic loading. You can read more details about this topic here. User privacy is one of the most important things nowadays. We are in the time of GDPR and much other data privacy regulations. So avoiding ask the user of his personal information will be much safer for you and will remove the headache of securing it on your side. Unless you have a good reason and a very secure infrastructure to collect, store, and transmit personal user information, you must avoid directly asking for it in your apps.

You can use service like Firebase Auth to manage that for you. Many apps have an in-app payment or making critical tasks never do this kind of tasks on a rooted device. Automatically disable these features on a rooted device. Because the rooted device can change your code at runtime and alter the behavior of it. You can detect rooted device using the code is this StackOverflow answer. For more details on that topic check this article. During developing developers tend to put a lot of permissions in the Manifest file thinking that they will use it when they develop their app and after finishing the app they make the release build and forget to remove these permissions.

Your app should request only the minimum number of permissions necessary to function properly. But these ones are the most common in most apps nowadays If you want more advanced security tips check this talk on Google IO If you have other important tips or opinions share it with us in the response or keep in touch with me. Happy coding! Github: Ahmed-Abdelmeged. Sign in. Get started. Submit Archive About Events. Developing Secure Android Apps. Ahmed Abd-Elmeged Follow. Android Engineer Eventtus.