MIAMI (CBSMiami) – We rely on our smartphones for just about everything these days, but just like a computer, they can be easily hacked.
There are a growing number of apps and services that promise to help protect your personal information from outsiders.
Jeremy Banner said he is taking precautions by using encryption technology on his phone.
“I personally have had information stolen from me, my social security number, and I don’t want to fall victim to that kind of thing again,” said Banner. “If you don’t use any kind of security, you’re pretty much just like leaving your car door unlocked and leaving your wallet on your seat.”
There are services such as Chat Secure and Silent Text that encrypt all of your data, from documents and photos to movies and even your voice.
“Some encryption software is easy enough to use that even your grandma could use it,” said Philip Zimmermann, president and co-founder of Silent Circle, which makes Silent Text.
But in order to decipher the messages using the apps, the person you’re communicating with also needs to have it. Complicating matters even more is that some of the services charge monthly fees.
“It takes two to tango,” said Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Consumers are sort of stuck, figuring out which one do they use and then convincing their friends to also use that app, too.”
You can also hide your Internet activity on your smartphone with browsers such as Orweb or Onion Browser.
But even when using encryption apps, there’s always a possibility your communications could still be compromised.
“Do a little bit of research online and see what people are saying about them,” said ACLU Principal Technologist, Christopher Soghoian. “My general rule of thumb is that if the software is not open sourced, if a, if an expert cannot look under the hood and see what’s happening, then I don’t want to use it.”
Something else to keep in mind: cost. You may have to pay a monthly fee for some services.
“All of the secure communications apps that I know of tend to use the data connection, not the voice or text service. That may cost you more money,” said Soghoian.
Even when using encryption apps, there’s always a possibility your communications could be compromised.
“They’re not going to provide 100% security, but they’re definitely an improvement,” said Soghoian.
But in Banner’s opinion, any protection is better than none.
Another important fact is that these apps tend to require a very good network connection, so they’re less likely to work well in remote environments.
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