Is your smartphone protected against data dangers?

New encryption apps protect text messages, emails, even online activity


ORLANDO – This winter, the Target data breach put tens of millions of consumers on alert.

[WEB EXTRA: Encrypting your smartphone]

In April, the Heartbleed threat put passwords, credit cards and other sensitive data at risk.  

These troubles have consumers thinking a little bit more about how safe and secure their private information is especially on their mobile devices.

Thanks to the convenience of our smartphones we send important work e-mails and text messages. We bank. We even shop. But how protected are consumers when they use their mobile devices?

When Jeremy Banner sends sensitive information to others from his computer he protects it using encryption technology. That means he uses a program which turns his information into a secret code so no one but the intended person can read it.

"I personally have had information stolen from me, my social security number, and I don't want to be- fall victim to that kind of thing again," said Banner.

But as we move from computers to mobile devices that risk increases.

So there are a growing number of apps like Silent Text that help you protect everything from text messages to account numbers.

"Some encryption software is easy enough to use that even your grandma could use it," said Philip Zimmerman who created Silent Text.  He says it keeps your text messages secure.

There are other apps like Chatsecure and Textsecure, which also encrypt messages.

Other apps even let you encrypt voice and video messages too.

Something to keep in mind though is the cost after downloading the app.

You may have to pay a monthly fee for some services and many use a data connection so that may cost you more money.

It's important to point out the person you communicate with also needs the app in order to decrypt what you send.

"It takes two to tango. Consumers are sort of stuck, figuring out which one do they use and then convincing their friends to also use that app, too," said Zimmerman,

Now that's talking and texting. How about surfing the net on your phone? That's easier to lock down.

Browsers like Orweb or Onion Browser help make you invisible online.

But no matter which service you might select experts suggest consumers do a little bit of research online and see what people are saying about them.

And remember even when using encryption apps, there's always a possibility your communications could be compromised.

But in Banner's opinion, any protection is better than none.

"If you don't use any kind of security, you're really, pretty much, just like leaving your car door unlocked and leaving your wallet on your seat," he said.

Another important fact: these apps tend to require a very good network connection, so they're less likely to work well in remote environments.