Statistics indicate that as many as 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7% recovered. Device theft or loss is just one type of potential security breach that may hit your personal device.

You’ve probably invested at least a bit of time in ensuring the security of your home computer and network. You need to make a similar effort to protect your mobile devices.

Several types of apps can help you ensure the cyber security of your mobile devices. We’ll take a look at these app categories and identify a few leaders in each category.

Encrypted Messaging Apps

There’s a lot of information in your instant and text messages: phone numbers, personal preferences, location information, email addresses, pictures, and more. To secure this information, you should consider a messaging app that provides end-to-end encryption.  End-to-end encryption ensures only the communicating users can read the message, and is designed to defeat any attempts at surveillance or tampering because no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored.

Two of the most popular and highly rated apps are WhatsApp and Signal. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides tutorials on using WhatsApp and Signal.

Password Management Apps

Saving login information in your browser – or in a file on your computer – makes you vulnerable. Password management apps do the work of generating and storing strong passwords for the sites you use – across mobile devices and desktop systems. These apps use advanced encryption to keep your information safe.

PC Magazine, Lifehacker, and The Wire Cutter all give very high marks to LastPass.

Anti-Virus Apps

There’s much debate as to whether iOS or Android devices require anti-virus apps.

Apple says that iOS devices don’t need added antivirus apps, because they’re inherently secure due to unique hardware, firmware, and software architecture; data encryption; and Touch ID, six-digit PIN codes, app store, and Find My iPhone features. If you’re interested in pursuing additional anti-virus options, Avast and McAfee both provide solutions.

Android has a native malware-scanning system that checks apps for potentially harmful code when they’re installed, and can continuously scan your device over time to make sure nothing problematic ever pops up. If you want to explore supplemental security, you may want to explore anti-virus apps as part of a bigger security package.

Two-Factor Authentication Apps

Two Factor Authentication, also known as 2FA or TFA, is an extra layer of security that  requires not only a password and username but also something that only that user has on them – for example, a physical token they have at hand.

Many password management apps – like 1Password and LastPass – include a two-factor authentication feature. Authy is a highly-rated standalone two-factor app.

Want to know if your favorite website supports two-factor authentication? Visit Two Factor Auth (2FA). This resource even lets you send a message to encourage your favorite site to include support for 2FA.

Device Manager Apps

Find my iPhone can help you get back a missing device and, in the case of loss or theft, Activation Lock keeps your information safe and makes it hard for anyone to use or sell it.

If your Android device is lost or stolen, Find My Device can help you find, lock. or erase it.

VPN Apps

There are a few reasons why you might want to consider a virtual private network (VPN):

  • If you spend a lot of time surfing the Web through open Wi-Fi networks — at airports, hotels, etc – you may want to consider a VPN to encrypt all of your data and keep strangers from snooping.
  • Statistics from security firm Barkly have shown that 45% of internet users still keep clicking on dangerous links. A VPN can help here if it offers malware blocking or URL filtering to help prevent the less tech-savvy from stumbling into a phishing site, or contracting a virus online.

Some devices have a built-in VPN; check to see if your device has such an option. Alternately, a search will turn up many buying guides. ‘Buying’ is key: most experts recommend avoiding free VPN services.

Two Bonus Suggestions

  • Consider locking individual apps and content on your smartphone. If your phone is snatched from your hands while you’re using it, a lock on an app or content provides an extra layer of protection. For Android devices you can use AVG AntiVirus Free to lock individual apps with a unique PIN code. There’s not a similar capability for iOS, but check out Folder Lock to password-protect your documents and folders.
  • Monitor your identity on Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox and more using a service like LogDog. This service will warn you of logins from unfamiliar places.