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Best apps to stay secure online in 2021

security
(Image credit: krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images)

Over the past few years, the internet has become a common part of modern life. Today, we spend several hours each day browsing the web, scrolling through social media feeds, sending emails, streaming movies, working remotely, and conducting other online activities. 

But while the internet offers a wide range of capabilities, it has a darker side that not everyone knows about. Whether it’s hacking, malware, ransomware, phishing, web trackers, intrusive adverts, or data theft, many different security threats can make using the internet a nightmare. And they’re increasing at an alarming rate. 

On the bright side, there are lots of apps that can help you mitigate these threats in order to stay secure online. They include virtual private networks, antivirus software, password managers, advert blockers, and more. To help you choose one, we’ve rounded up some of the best internet security apps available to download on your devices in 2021. 

ExpressVPN

If you’d like to improve your online privacy and unblock geo-restricted content on the internet, it’s worth downloading a premium virtual private network like ExpressVPN. With its 3,000-strong global server network, you can easily access streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and many others in any country or region.

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

And because ExpressVPN offers user-friendly apps for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and other popular platforms, you can unblock geo-restricted streaming platforms and content on any device. Other top features offered by ExpressVPN include impenetrable AES-256 encryption, a network kill switch to protect your data when your connection disconnects, a strict no-logging policy, unlimited bandwidth, a built-in speed test, and lots more. You will, however, need to make do with a five-device limit. 

McAfee Mobile Security 

Nowadays, phones are like mini-computers because we spend lots of time browsing the internet and accessing online services on them. But just like traditional computers, they can be hacked and become infected with malware if you click on a dodgy link or open a malicious document. An excellent way to protect your mobile device from different online security risks is by downloading a smartphone-friendly antivirus solution like McAfee Mobile Security

(Image credit: McAfee)

Available to download on both Android and iOS devices, it offers a system security scanner that can detect whether your operating system is out-of-date, a secure Wi-Fi scanner that’ll identify any anomalies affecting your internet connection, a media vault to prevent unauthorized access to your photos and videos, anti-theft protection for when your phone is lost or stolen, the ability to back up your contacts, a built-in VPN, web browsing protection, and lots more. Something to bear in mind is that features vary based on the subscription you choose.

1Password

Most people have multiple online accounts in this day and age, whether it’s email, social media, streaming, shopping, or a different type of internet-based service. And to avoid needing to remember lots of different passwords, you might use the same login for each of your online accounts. However, doing so can make it easy for cybercriminals to hack into your accounts. 

(Image credit: 1Password)

But with 1Password, you can quickly generate strong passwords for all your accounts, access them in a secure app, and automatically fill in your different login details so that you don’t need to enter them manually. What’s also nifty about 1Password is that you can use it for storing bank account information, driving licenses, passports, addresses, notes, and other sensitive information, instead of just online passwords. Other features include multiple vaults, tags and favorites for organizing your data, the ability to search for a specific piece of information via Spotlight, custom fields, end-to-end encryption, facial unlocking, and more. 

Avira Free Security 

The best way to stay secure and private online is by installing antivirus software on your device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet PC, laptop, or desktop computer. But that doesn't mean you need to shell out lots of money on one because Avira Free Security offers a wide range of security, privacy, and performance functions at no cost. 

(Image credit: Avira)

One of its main features is real-time protection, which automatically analyzes your system and files for any security vulnerabilities. There are also three virus scans available, including a quick scan for detecting the least secure parts of your device, a full scan that conducts a thorough search across your entire device, and a custom scan that detects threats impacting specific areas. 

Avira Free Security also provides features for boosting your internet privacy, including a built-in VPN and a password manager. Additionally, it sports tools for enhancing the performance of your device. However, additional features like a tracker remover and junk cleaner require a premium subscription. The solution works on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android devices. 

AdGuard

Unwanted adverts and web trackers are more common than ever in all corners of the internet. But luckily, you can clamp down on them by installing an advert blocking service like AdGuard.

(Image credit: AdGuard)

AdGuard, which offers apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, is capable of blocking pop-up adverts, video adverts, and banner adverts. It cleverly filters and blocks adverts behind the scenes, meaning you can enjoy an ad-free experience whenever you browse the web.

In addition to blocking intrusive adverts, AdGuard can also protect your personal data from web trackers and other online activity analysis tools. Additionally, it offers browsing security, parental controls, filtering for all browsers and apps, 24/7 customer support, and more. However, features may vary by the operating system. AdGuard also has a separate VPN solution that sports 49 locations, strong encryption, a no-logging policy, and more. 

Signal

Instant messaging apps are a great way to communicate with people online, although many are insecure and can be easily breached by cybercriminals. That’s why you should think about downloading a secure IM service like Signal

(Image credit: Signal)

The great thing about Signal is that it applies end-to-end encryption to all your messages, calls, and other personal data stored in the app. So, you don’t need to worry about crooks eavesdropping on your conversations or stealing your personal information. 

As well as being very secure, Signal also offers HD-quality video and voice calls, a dark theme, personalized alerts for different contacts, built-in photo editing tools, fast speeds, the ability to use your current phone number and address book, multi-platform apps, and more. Signal is entirely free to download and use, too.