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Privacy Cookbook - Chapter 5.8 - Cellphone Security - Battlefixes for non-rooted smartphones

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We've reached the final section of Chapter 5 of the Privacy Cookbook which deals with one final area (and it is quite significant) namely some guidance, suggestions and recommendations for those who do not root their devices and prefer/chose to use them as delivered.

Firstly and very frankly, we implore you to always use an Android driven smartphone as iPhones only provide you with the illusion of privacy.

So here are a list of the things that you can do to improve your safety, many of which have been covered elsewhere in this chapter and the Cookbook.

1. Use ADB via computer to remove Google and other manufacturer's pre-installed software or at the very least disable them if possible. Sign out of all your Google etc accounts such that Settings-->Accounts does not show any sign-ins. Disable permissions for Google Play Store and Play Services in Apps, then disable them completely again via ADB.

2. Now take your device back to factory settings, just to 'cleanse' it.

3. Install the f-Droid app and open Repositories settings then add the link

4. Install covers over the cameras and use PilferShush Jammer from f-Droid to block the microphone

5. Install NetGuard (from GitHub for the donation version, or f-droid) or similar along with an ad blocker like AdGuard (see prior sections/chapters for alternatives) and apply the 'off-the-shelf' blocklists or your own or a combination. This will block trackers and ads.

Here are some of the best lists:
CHEFKOCH - NSA Blocklist
CHEFKOCH - Canvas font fingerprinting
CHEFKOCH - Audio fingerprinting
CHEFKOCH - Canvas fingerprinting
CHEFKOCH - Trackers
CHEFKOCH - Facebook

GoodByeAds - Great list of Ads blocked
Yhosts - Great list!
Crimeflare - Cloudflare domains
Android - Android Ads and Tracking

Alternative just change the DNS on your android Phone

For Samsung Phones, please also have a look to this chapter

On Android 9 or higher

Settings -> Connections -> More connections settings -> Private DNS -> Private DNS provider hostname:

fdns1.dismail.de

6. Add Fennec as a browser

7. OSMAnd+ is good for maps.

8. AnySoftKeyboard is a good choice for avoiding key-logging.

9. Use FairEmail as e-mail client, see previous section

10. Try Invidio to replace YouTube (Alternative use NewPipe)

11. Shelter can be used as a sandbox to trial potential apps

12. S. Notes or Joplin for note taking, Phonograph as a music player and VLC for videos, all from f-Droid

13. Simple Gallery as your Gallery App

We thought at this point it might be worthwhile just having a quick look at some of the more common makers of cellphones and giving some thoughts on each.

As a rough guide, we've gone with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly:


The Good

Huawei: we have done an entire evaluation of the brand and are frankly, not unimpressed See A Rotten Apple and a Cinderella Story). Don't be fooled by the noise, there are people out there who just don't like them for geo-political reasons and that in itself will tell you all you need to know.

FairPhone: Clean software, ethical company e.g. recyclable components, pricey but a good all round phone

Also rans in alphabetical order: Asus, LG, Motorola, Sony all get pass marks


The Bad

Anything Google, any thing iPhone.....simple as...

Samsung: Way too free and easy with its use of user data, with connecting to the mothership and other issues (see a recent article on their corporate misbehavior). Blockers help plus it has a good camera but that is hardly enough to compensate for the above.

Also rans here include: Realme, Xiaomi


The Ugly (in fairness, these all have some good features but just not quite secure enough for us!)

Nokia: had issues in the recent past with Russian and Chinese malware, telemetry and trackers but nothing that can't be solved with suitable blockers and other mitigating actions

Also rans here include: OnePlus (although in conjunction with Lineage this is more than satisfactory), Oppo, Vivo: (generally, less telemetry, trackers and ads so better than most and solvable - to a degree).


So there you have it, what to do if you don't want (for whatever reason) to root your phone!


See you in Chapter 6 of the Privacy Cookbook – Computers and Software!

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