Smartphones touch nearly every aspect of our daily lives. We use them to communicate with friends, create photos and videos, watch streaming content, and more. With so much of our lives tied up in these gadgets, poor security could result in a breach of privacy. Safe Me, from California-based Lucideus, is a free app for Android and iOS smartphones that’s designed to enhance your security and privacy in multiple ways. However, once you’ve followed its security configuration advice and worked through all its courses, the only reason to keep it around is for its dark web monitoring.
This is not an antivirus product; that’s not its focus. Nor does it aim to help you locate a lost or stolen device (a feature that’s built into both Android and iOS). Rather, it encourages correct security settings, reports on personal data exposures, and trains you, the user, to take care of your own digital security and privacy.
To get started with Safe Me, just go to your device’s App Store and install it. Once you create your free account, it’s ready to go.
I did run into a snag or two. In the Apple realm, Safe Me is made for iPhones, not iPads. It looks like you could use it on an iPad, if you don’t mind the undersized window. On the Android device I use for testing, my attempt to sign up initially resulted in a confusing error message. That problem apparently solved itself overnight. And when I finally did install on an iPhone everything went smoothly.
The first thing you see when you launch Safe Me is your Safe Me Score, surrounded by an amorphous animated blob of color. The score’s range nominally runs from 0 to 5, but a little digging revealed that the actual range is 0.42 to 4.2. According to the app, “the last 0.8 is a factor of the unknown.” Mysterious! Below the score, the app reports your risk level, and below that is a graph of risk level over time.
Norton 360 Deluxe, for example, scours the dark web for a broad collection of personal items. Not just email—it looks for phone numbers, street addresses, and more, and you can add multiple instances of most data types.
Safe Me offered a thorough explanation of each exposure it found. Some cases involved a single, simple website such as LinkedIn or Malwarebytes. Others represented breach data sold in aggregate form, without a single source. Safe Me marked still others as a Sensitive Source, explaining that, among other possibilities, revealing the source might hinder an ongoing investigation.
In many cases the leak involved personal information other than passwords. Safe Me lists just what was found—snail mail address, phone number, what-have-you. At the bottom of each detail page, Safe Me asks whether you’ve changed your password and security questions for the site, and for any sites where you used the same password. Tap Yes and it marks the exposure as Remediated. In truth, it just isn’t possible to change the password if the exposure is an aggregate list or a sensitive source.
The amount of information proved almost overwhelming. In the end, I marked all the found problems as remediated, because I figure that’s what many users will do. The damage from those breaches has already happened, after all. Now, if a new breach shows up in the list, that will be a serious red flag.
IDX Privacy performs dark web monitoring like what you get with Norton. In addition, it seeks your personal data on legitimate data aggregator sites and tries to remove it. Abine DeleteMe strictly attacks the problem of data aggregators, even employing human agents to handle removals when automation isn’t possible. This is more than you get from Safe Me, but Safe Me is free, whereas IDX Privacy and DeleteMe are expensive, at $79.95 per year and $129 per year, respectively.
Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection is another program that includes both dark web monitoring and tracking of your data on legitimate data collection sites. It also sniffs popular social media sites to detect anyone who’s trying to imitate you. And it runs $79.99 per year.
After working through the dark web exposures, I checked my score again on the main screen. It fluctuated some more but wound up at 3.05. That’s progress!
desktop screenshots to illustrate necessary settings. I found these almost impossible to view. Imagine your Windows laptop screen displayed on the relatively tiny screen of a smartphone.
Abine Blur Premium. With Blur, you can shop online without revealing your actual email, credit card number, or even phone number. It also manages your passwords, actively prevents trackers from following you around the web, and more.
With another take on privacy, PreVeil offers secure, encrypted email plus secure cloud storage all for free. PreVeil is another privacy Editors’ Choice.