Thieves, scammers, the government...is there any end to the people who want to acquire your personal information? It used to be that stealing someone's info required actually mugging them, but these days, it’s a lot easier to peer in on someone's communications than it is to whack them over the head in a dark alley.
Encryption is one protective tool at your disposal. It scrambles your data so nobody can listen in. Hotspots, chat, voice, email, and texts can all be encrypted through Android-available tools.
Public Wi-Fi networks
Hotspots can be spoofed, leading you to connect to data-sucking criminals lurking nearby. Plus, data is inherently insecure when it’s wafting around coffee shops and other public networks.
There’s a simple way to protect yourself though, and that’s to camouflage your wireless data via encryption along with creating a private tunnel through the Internet.
It’s called a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.
VPNs can be used to encrypt all of your public hotspot data traffic, including bank transactions, and so on. And it also conveniently protects those celebrities amongst us from prying gossip-vendors.
Voice calls and texts
If you’re concerned that the interception of your phone calls by world leaders, human rights groups, or your spouse may create a diplomatic incident, you can encrypt your calls and texts.
You can experiment with it for free by creating an account at the Ostel website, and downloading and configuring calling-app CSipSimple.
The Silent Circle Mobile package, which also includes video, and 100 MB document sending costs $10 a month.
Encrypting your communications doesn't necessarily require handing over monthly fees, though. That’s too capitalistic for the average oppressed dissident. If you are one, and want to explore the world of encrypted comms on the cheap, you can always use Orbot.
Orbot scrambles your Internet traffic, and then bounces it around the world using Tor.
Bouncing hides your originating location. Coupling that with encryption helps create secure communications.
ChatSecure is Orbot’s Android chat client, and it’s supposed to function through common chat protocols, like Google, Bonjour, or Jabber.
However, ChatSecure failed to work with Google accounts when I tried it, so you might want to try some of the other Orbot apps before taking on that project. I’d start with the Orweb browser, and move on to Ostel voice calling. Both worked in my tests.
Android Privacy Guard, or APG, is a simple OpenPGP solution for encrypting your email (it’s easier to use than the Guardian Project’s Gnu Privacy Guard) and great for derailing any attempted hacker eavesdropping of your latest corporate acquisition, as can happen when you’re not careful.
Use the APG app alongside encryption-friendly Android email client app K-9. Create and manage keys in APG. Then use K-9 to compose emails. Choose encryption, along with your APG-stored keys as an email sending option.
Once you’ve got your head around the idea that both the sender and recipient has to have a key to encrypt, decrypt, and sign emails and the like, it’s not hard to implement encryption for your daily correspondence.
The main drawback to communicating with encryption is that both parties must have encryption-enabled apps for private communications to work securely. This is a particularly intrusive issue when it comes to voice calls.
If you’re a lawyer, say, and want to have a private voice conversation with your neighborhood whistleblower, you’ll both need to install a compatible app—and purchase plans—before discussing some dastardly multinational’s evil deeds, like groundwater contamination. That’s if you want to be sure the suits don’t listen in.
And finally, here’s a warning: Government-requested back-doors are not unheard of in encryption tools.
So, watch out, or you might just find yourself living in a Russian airport for a while.