Android Virtual Private Network ( VPN ) Apps keep sensitive personal data out of the hands of criminals cruising the internet. Because our digital lives include things like banking, GPS navigation, and posting pictures of our houses on social media, everything is up for grabs.
Why privacy isn't so private anymore
Smartphones are an integral part of our everyday lives. What we don't realize is that we are constantly transmitting sensitive personal data that can be used for illegal activities.
Your Android phone's data isn't as private than you think. Everything you do online is monitored by various services you interact with.
Your internet service provider (ISP) monitors you. Websites and apps you use on a daily basis also monitor you. Google monitors you through the Android OS.
Not all monitoring is a bad thing. Developers use information gathered during monitoring to make improvements to apps, operating systems, websites and services.
But there are people who hang out online and use sophisticated methods to "catch" data as it's floating by. That's why you need a VPN for your Android smartphone.
What is a VPN?
Virtual Private Networks change your internet address and shield your data from everyone outside of it, including your ISP. This keeps prying eyes from knowing your geographical location, IP address or other personal data.
The best way to illustrate a VPN is to think of your data as cars traveling on an open road. When you go through a tunnel, your car is invisible to everyone outside that tunnel. The tunnel is the VPN.
Should I use a free VPN on my smartphone?
Everyone likes free stuff. But a 2016 ACM study of 150 "free" VPN Apps (some allowed download of the app but required payment to use services) available in the Google Play Store shows that free Android VPNs are not a good idea.
The free VPNs downloaded during the study contained malware (38%) and/or tracking libraries (75%).
Malware inside a VPN can do things like:
- display unwanted ads on your phone at random times
- snatch your debit and credit card info
- lock up your devices until you pay a fee (ransomware)
Don't Trust Play Store Ratings for Mobile VPNs
Google has been combating the problem of fake ratings, inflated installation counts and other problems for quite some time.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to know for sure if the number of installs and ratings are genuine. These trust signals don't really mean anything at all, despite all the IT geniuses working on the issue. Every time a fix is in place, some clever bad guy finds a way around it.
How to choose an Android OS VPN
Here are some features to look for when choosing an Android VPN:
- Speed: Choose a fast VPN service that's physically located at a server close to where you will use it the most
- Made for Android: A good Android VPN service will be designed to work on Android and not another OS.
- Excellent security protocols: If you want the best, look for strong OpenVPN or IKEv2 encryption
- No logs: This protects your privacy even more. Even though many US-based VPNs provide "no logs" services, government surveillance prevents these VPNs from being 100% private.
- WiFi protection: It offers additional protection on unknown WiFi networks.