📱 Decide how to Hide Your Apps
There are several ways to hide your apps. These methods protect you in different ways, but if your phone is being searched deeply, using methods to hide your apps can anger the person searching your phone. So for your own safety, you must consider what trade off to make between possibly hiding your apps from being found, and possibly upsetting your adversary if you are being searched and at physical risk.
If you are being searched by the authorities, it is possible that they may coerce you to reveal your PIN codes and passphrases. We can add an extra line of defence. We can hide our apps or even setup decoys to show the authorities. This may keep the messages, photos, documents and activity from your real apps hidden to the authorities if they don't perform a thorough search.
What you should prepare
Considering a scenario where you may be coerced to unlock your phone, and someone is searching through your apps. The options you have to prepare for this are, in increasing levels of security:
- Don't change anything - this is the easiest, but doesn't give you any security.
- Remove Apps from the Drawer and Homescreens - Put your apps on a hidden list, away from the typical drawer - this protects your apps from a casual glance, i.e. if the authorities scroll through your list of apps. But it may be suspicious if you don't have a popular app visible (like Signal, Facebook or Facebook Messenger).
- Change the Icon and Name of your App - Only you will know that, for example, an icon for a 🔦 flashlight actually opens your Signal app. Confuses someone looking through your apps, but doesn't add any additional security as anyone can still open the Flashlight app. Like the hidden apps, it may be suspicious if you don't have a popular apps installed.
- Put Apps into a Vault - Similar to "Hide Apps", but there is also an added PIN code lock screen that someone needs to complete to access your app. If you are forced to open your Phone, this is unlikely to offer any additional protection.
- Create Parallel or Decoy Apps - Instead of leaving obvious gaps in your app list, you can setup parallel/decoy (false) apps that you could open instead of the sensitive (real) apps, to show someone searching through your phone. This option takes a lot of effort as you have to maintain the decoy apps to make them look realistic. This option also risks angering the person searching your phone if you are found out.
- (Un)install Every Time - you can install/uninstall apps every time you use them. This will ensure that there are no apps to be found when searched, but this is highly inconvenient.
Take some time to think which option would be the best for you, and then continue with the instructions for that particular choice.
What you should do
Depending on which option you decided best fits you, you will follow ONE of the following steps:
1. Don't change anything
OK! You are already done!
But if you choose this option, it's highly recommended not to put any sensitive data on this phone, or connect to any accounts that have sensitive data on them.
2. Remove Apps from the Drawer and Homescreens
3. Change the Icon and Name of your App
4. Put Apps into a Vault
Follow the instructions to 📱 Put Apps into a Vault on Android, on iOS this feature won't be available until iOS 15 is released in September 2021.
5. Create Parallel or Decoy Apps
Follow the instructions to 📱 Create Parallel and Decoy Apps on Android, on iOS this feature isn't available.
6. Uninstall and Install on Every Use
If you decide to either not use a smartphone, or to install an app each time before you use it, and uninstall it every time after you use it, then there are further steps to follow.