Clean junk files and optimize Android with ToolWiz Cleaner

ToolWiz Cleaner is a free Android optimisation app that helps you keep your Android device free from clutter, regaining space and speed. The app has a clean layout with a huge button in the middle that tells you how much RAM memory you are using, optimising it with just a tap. I don’t know how accurate the numbers ToolWiz Cleaner gives you are, but if they are correct, the app was able to give me back half of my RAM memory by killing not needed background processes. Having said that, I have never had a problem where I ran out of RAM, the main advantage is that by reducing the processes in your phone, you save battery life.

There are two top icons in ToolWiz Cleaner displaying your Android phone temperature and storage space, tapping on them brings up a new screen with complete statistics, you can see your Android phone CPU and battery temperature in eye candy graphics that display CPU usage and frequency,the storage icon brings up the system and internal SD card storage usage.

Android junk cleaner CleanWiz
Android junk cleaner ToolWiz Cleaner

Another four icons at the bottom of ToolWiz Cleanerare labelled “Junk Cleaner“, “App Manager“, “Privacy&Security” and “Memory Boost“. Tapping on “Privacy&Security” automatically cleans your Chrome browser search and URL history, it also displays shortcuts to Android Call log, SMS and photo optimizer for you to clean those traces using internal tools that Android supplies. In the same section you can see an Autorun tab showing all apps running in the background, I tried to disable the idle running flashlight app in the background and a window popped up informing me that I needed root authority to do that, this greatly reduces the benefits of that section since I am not willing to risk harm to my Android phone by rooting it.

What I highly recommend you to look at is the “Permissions” tab in the privacy section, you will be able to see the specific information that the apps installed in your phone can access. For example, I was surprised to see that my DU battery saver and Clean Master apps can access something as personal as the device IMEI number (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity), I can’t understand why those apps need my phone serial number and I find it meddlesome that a company would want to know a number hard coded into the device only meant to be used to disable the phone if it gets stolen, the number should be out of boundaries for a battery saving and cleaning app, so, thank you CleanWiz for letting me know about this. In the same tab you can also see what apps are able to access your call log and phone contacts, in my case it was limited to Google Play, it is worthwhile for a user to check this out, call logs and contacts are another piece of personal data that should be kept out of apps access if you value your privacy.

I ran the “Clean Master” cleaning app right after ToolWiz Cleaner and it only found 8MB of extra junk in my gallery and system cache that ToolWiz Clenaerhad missed. I believe both apps are good but I am now going to uninstall “Clean Master” and go with ToolWiz Cleaner instead. The main reason for that are the privacy features that ToolWiz Clenaer gives you. I was particularly unhappy that “Clean Master” was able to access my phone’s IMEI number and if it wasn’t for ToolWiz Cleaner I would have never know about it, from now ToolWiz Cleaner will be my main Android cleaning app.

Visit ToolWiz Clenaner homepage

Review F-Secure Freedome mobile phone VPN

Freedome is a paid for VPN service for Android and iOS managed by F-Secure, a Finnish online security company that has been around for many years. You can use the VPN to view geographical locked content in Netflix, protect yourself from hackers in open Wifi points, stop advertisers from gathering data about your surfing habits and block pages containing malware.

The VPN connection is encrypted and it also stops your Internet Service Provider from seeing what sites you visit. The only thing this VPN might not be able to help you with is bypassing Internet filtering if a network administrator has DNS censorship in place. Normally companies use hardware firewalls to block access to undesirable websites, like social media, it can be very tricky finding a hole in a school Internet filtering set up, it is a matter of having networking knowledge and getting lucky, Freedome is being marketed for privacy and security and not as a way to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

Freedome F-Secure OpenVPN smartphone
Freedome F-Secure OpenVPN smartphone

Freedome has servers in Europe, North America and Asia, unlimited bandwidth and they keep no logs. Tapping Freedome’s big single button starts the VPN in your phone and automatically connects to the closest server to you, it can be changed to any other location you like, the UK, USA, Sweden and Hong Kong are all available in between many others. For a smartphone only VPN, I was very pleased with the wide range of servers and speed.

The level of protection provided can be customized to your needs. One example would be the Internet browsing protection checking websites you visit for viruses, this feature can be turned off in Freedome if you feel it is not needed. I have been using this VPN app for 6 months in my Android phone and I have never noticed any kind of slow down with the virus protection on, the only reason why you might want to disable it, is if you don’t trust F-Secure to filter out harmful sites for you.

I experienced a few disconnections with Freedome, it wasn’t too often, but sometimes, like once a week, my VPN would disconnect in the middle of a session for no reason, very annoying. Google Play reviews of this app parade more customers complaining about disconnections, the developers surely know about the problem and lets cross fingers that it will be fixed.

There is no desktop version for this app, it has been developed for smarpthones only, this gives Freedome more leverage when it comes to protect you than other VPN services supporting desktop and mobile phones. Every single security layer that Freedome provides you can be switched on and off.

In VPNs that are not smartphone specific you only get protection for your Internet connection in Wifi hotspots and anonymity hiding your IP, no protection at all from malware infecting your smartphone. Freedome can check what apps do and it will not allow you to download an app that contains a virus.

Freedome F-Secure VPN server location
Freedome F-Secure VPN server location

Another good point for Freedome is that unlike other companies claiming to provide a secure VPN for smartphones selling the insecure PPTP protocol without informing the customer that PPTP encryption can be cracked, Freedome provides you with pure OpenVPN that has no known vulnerabilities.

I was using Freedome at home because it was free during the beta testing, I didn’t feel I needed it, my home wireless connection is already protected with WPA2, but the VPN was useful to stop advertisers tracking me browsing the Internet. Now that my VPN trial has expired I will be using the Dolphin Zero browser to avoid storing cookies in my smartphone, but for those travelling and using a smartphone at hotels access points, I think that a VPN is a must have, otherwise what you do on the network can be captured by anybody.

I liked Freedome’s simplicity and easy to use, I was not so fond of their prices, for slightly more money you can buy a cheap desktop and mobile phone VPN provider, what might make you buy Freedome VPN over something like PIA VPN, is that Freedome has malware protection on top of their VPN, and other services do not.

Visit F-Secure Freedome homepage

Review free proxy browser addon ZenMate

ZenMate is a free proxy browser addon for Chrome, Opera and Firefox, it works in your desktop computer or mobile device and it has been designed to protect your Internet browsing from hackers and government spying. The addon encrypts browser traffic to stop an Internet Service Provider or malicious hacker from snooping what sites you visit, keeping logs or blocking access to websites.

Unlike a VPN, ZenMate only protects the Internet browser, any other activity you do, like automatic updates or P2P programs, are not protected by this extension. Additionally, the extension does not insulate you from advertisers tracking you with cookies, and your computer IP can still be uncovered if you visit a website with plugins like Flash or Java. ZenMate developers recommend that you block Flash in your browser to stop this from happening.

DNS leaks are taken care of by the extension with Google Public DNS. This does not mean that your privacy is at the hands of Google, only a ZenMate IP address will be visible in Google DNS servers.

Browser proxy addon ZenMate
Browser proxy addon ZenMate

You have to register entering a valid email address to activate ZenMate, the process takes less than a minute and it is simple. Servers are available in the USA, Europe and Asia, they mask your computer IP and help you watch georestricted online TV from abroad, but it did not work for me in all sites. Hulu often blocked me displaying a message saying that I was behind a proxy and I couldn’t change my IP to a different one, ZenMate free service assigns computer IPs at random and does not allow for manual server change in the same country. When using the Swiss proxy I also found out that many sites would believe I was in Turkey.

There is not much a proxy provider can do about server location being wrongly labelled and you should expect it from similar services, however, paid for VPN or proxies allow users to change server when that happens. I politely contacted ZenMate staff in Twitter letting them know about the Hulu block asking if there was any way around, they never bothered to reply.

Various tests I did, based on my home Internet connection of 10Mb, showed ZenMate proxy speed of in between 2Mb/9Mb depending on the day and server. Browsing webpages with ZenMate produced no delay and it was unnoticeable, streaming video in YouTube was fine too and switching from one country to another always went smooth, taking less than two seconds, quicker than a VPN switch. The company points out that they are in Germany and your privacy is protected under German law but they don’t mention anything about how long for they keep connection logs.

Overall, I am definitely comfortable using ZenMate to access blocked websites, but I would never use them for strong privacy or with the intention to stream georestricted content because it won’t work for this. The lack of detailed information about log retention and Flash plugin revealing my computer IP makes ZenMate not suitable for strong privacy, the permanent Hulu block makes it not suitable to watch georestricted content.

Zenmate says that the free version will always exist and they are working in a new paid for ZenMate extension with more features. I believe a VPN is far superior than a single proxy browser addon and unless their paid version costs half price of a VPN I can’t see myself paying for their premium extension when it comes out.

Visit ZenMate homepage

Review European VPN provider SecurityKiss

I have been using SecurityKiss Jadeite 50GB package for six months, this review is based on my experience with them. Before signing up the good points you will see about the company are that it is based in Ireland, a country not known to operate mass surveillance programs like the USA and UK do, and you can pay for the VPN using Bitcoins, this protects you from credit card theft and it hides your identity. To sweeten the deal, SecurityKiss Bitcoin VPN prices are cheaper than buying it with a credit card or Paypal.

The company claims to only keep logs for 10 days, they should be complimented for being open about their logging policy, unlike other VPN providers that hide essential privacy information, SecurityKiss FAQ is very complete and clear about what information they collect when you use their VPN. In can be summed up in time and duration of the VPN connection, computer IP, and bandwidth used. They also disclose why this is necessary, to protect their company from abusive customers. The 10 days log retention is far lower than the one or two year retention logs that some email providers and ISPs keep and it seems reasonable.

European VPN provider SecurityKiss
European VPN provider SecurityKiss

Other things I liked from SecurityKiss are support for Linux, Mac and mobile devices, a lightweight easy to use Windows VPN client displaying at a glance monthly data usage and the server IP that you are connected to with the country flag,  the unique Octopus tunnelling to bypass firewalls and what SecurityKiss calls “Exclusive tunnelling“, a tunnel wrapped around your VPN connection to stop traffic from leaking out, the technology protects your real IP from exposure. When “Exclusive tunnelling” is active, if the VPN disconnects for whatever reason, you have to manually restore your Internet connectivity, there will be no automatic reconnection.

The not too appealing details are the bandwidth cap in the cheaper packages, for a higher price you get unlimited bandwidth but I didn’t think it was cheap, I would not call it expensive, just slightly above average. Paying for a yearly package with Bitcoins is the best deal and makes it worthwhile. What I found astounding is that SecurityKiss only had a single server marked for torrent downloads. I tested the server speed located in France and I was getting around 5Mbps, I am not saying this is a steady result, I tested it twice, the problem I had is that with only one server available for file sharing, if anything happens to it you are stuck and can’t switch anywhere else.

I also was not very happy about SecurityKiss “Server load” page meant to display the best server to connect to for speed, the page did not display accurate results. I would often connect to a server showed as having a low load and it would deliver a lousy under 1Mbps, I would then connect to a different server marked as heavily loaded and my speed would be faster, after multiple tests I decided not to trust server load indicators and just connect at random.

SecurityKiss VPN control panel
SecurityKiss VPN web control panel

As for online streaming, half of SecurityKiss USA servers were blocked by Hulu, I was never in a position where none of them would work, I just  had to keep switching them until I found the good ones, you only have to do it one time and remember the locations. It would have been more convenient if SecurityKiss had marked servers working with Hulu like I have seen other VPN providers do. Something else you should be aware of is that SecurityKiss does not have any server in Asia, I don’t care about it since I live in Europe but it could be important for other people.

Overall, I would give SecurityKiss a pass grade because it does what it is supposed to do but given prices, locations and far too often finding myself on low speed servers, this is not a VPN company I would recommend, not because they are very bad, but because there are competitors offering you more bang for your buck. Before signing up, I would look at other European VPN providers like Kepard, iVPN or HideIPVPN.

Visit SecurityKiss homepage

DVDFab bug reports sending computer screenshots to the developers

DVDFab is a paid for Media Player made by Chinese company Fengtao Software, I was given a free license for this player in GiveAwayOfTheDay and after trying it out I was satisfied with it.

The player does not have audio visualizations and very few settings can be customized but it worked with every single video and audio file I had, it is skinnable and it needs less CPU/RAM than Windows Media Player, I decided to make it my main player because of the simplicity and ease of use.

After a few months DVDFab Media Player crashed for the first time and it asked me if I wanted to send the bug to the company, thankfully I clicked on No and out of curiosity I looked at the file that DVDFab was about to send to the company head quarters in China. The file is named “Bug Report” and it was zipped, after uncompressing it this is what I found:

DVDFab spyware screenshot send in bug reports
DVDFab spyware screenshot (click to enlarge)

A text file named log.txt containing computer hardware information and a list of the video titles played in DVDFab MediaPlayer for the last months, including date and time. The names of the videos revealed a lot about my viewing habits, as an example, if one of the videos is called “Drug problems” or “Pirated Superman movie” DVDFab developers will known about it. I was surprised to see the names of all of the videos I had played for the last months being sent instead of a single title concerning the video I was watching at the time of the crash.

Two more files sent in the bug report were registry key settings with the language file and the path to the images folder, indicating the computer username, usually the real name of the computer administrator.

Another file being sent out was called system.xml and it listed detailed computer hardware, computer MAC address, operating system with installed service packs and all of the programs installed in the computer. Encryption programs and tax filling software I had were all named. Another surprise is that the file included the MAC address of my VirtualBox software.

Another file sent to DVDFab developers is called crashdump.dmp, you need special software to open a .dmp file, it can not be read with Notepad, the filed enclosed information about the drivers installed in the computer,

And the last file being sent away was the most privacy invasive one,  a screenshot of my computer desktop showing the video player and everything opened in the background, this can include bank information opened in your password manager, whatever page you are visiting at the time or personal pictures of your kids and wife.

I  then tried to find somewhere in DVDFab settings a way to tell the player to never send bug reports and this does not exist. You only have the option to refuse sending bug reports when the player crashes. If you let your kids use the computer they could click on Yes,if are too busy you click on Yes and if you haven’t got a clue about all the personal information that the bug report contains you click on Yes. There are many ways for a person to be fooled into giving away their personal privacy to DVDFab developers in China.

One thing is to collect hardware data and another thing is to collect a list of all the videos you have played dating back months and screenshots of your computer without clearly telling the customer about it. Don’t be surprised to learn that your home computer IP is also logged when sending the bug report.

I will be astonished if DVDFab developers aren’t breaking any privacy laws in the European Union and the USA with the data they collect in their bug reports. It is totally disgusting what they are getting away with.

Don’t get enticed by DVDFab give aways and their steep discounts, if you value your privacy download an open source free player like Videolan VLC, or a closed source program like BSplayer or GOM, you have plenty of free alternatives that are not that privacy invasive.

Review Invisible Browsing VPN – ibVPN

I have been with Invisible Browsing VPN, ibVPN, for three months now, I subscribed to their Total VPN package, slightly more expensive than the low end US IP only VPN package but it included many more locations from all over the world and ibDNS to configure your router and be able to watch georestricted online TV or play games without having to start the VPN, ibDNS detects when you visit Hulu or Pandora radio and allows you to stream the music without having to change your device settings, something you can’t do in the Xbox or my Logitech Squeezebox radio streaming device.

ibVPN is owned by Amplusnet, a Romanian based business that has been providing VPN services for more than ten years, they have server locations in all continents and over 30 countries, during my time with them they added Belgium as new location, there are thousands of available IPs and many US servers, Regrettably nearly all of ibVPN US servers were blocked by Hulu, save yourself time by looking for the word “Hulu” written next to the US server location, e.g. Miami (Hulu), this indicates that the server will not be blacklisted and ibVPN lets you know this way, I was only able to see a single server with this label but I had no speed issues.

Invisible browsing VPN ibVPN control panel
Invisible browsing VPN ibVPN control panel

Another solution around the Hulu block is setting up ibDNS, this can be done using ibVPN Windows client choosing “Country streaming preferences” (US, UK, Canada, Panama, Netherlands, Finland) and clicking on “Start ibDNS“, extremely easy, you will not have to manually change any Windows setting for this to work.

You can use ibVPN in Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices, with L2TP, PPTP, SSTP or OpenVPN protocols, the first two are meant to be used in mobile phones, with OpenVPN and SSTP targeted at desktop computers, if your concern is privacy, use OpenVPN whenever possible, encryption is harder to crack, and if you are behind a restrictive firewall, for example in China or at work, change the UDP protocol to TCP.

For most people the default settings will be good enough, in case of problems, ibVPN 24/7 support via ticket or live chat will guide you through the process of making the VPN work. You should not have to spend time playing with settings, the ibVPN Windows client is very light and easy to use, within a couple of clicks and a drop down menu you can change VPN server as many times as you like.

What I liked the most of their client is the “kill switch“, found by going to “Settings“>”Advanced” you can tick a checkbox and add apps, like a web browser or Usenet software that will automatically close when the VPN connection drops, and it will happen, there were one or two disconnections during my time with them, if you use torrents you better use that feature or you will risk your home IP being left out in the clear and one time is already too many when privacy is at risk.

I am on a 10Mbps Internet home connection and speed was not an issue, ibVPN servers matched my own ISP speed most times, bandwidth is unmetered. The diverse number of VPN locations in the Total package should satisfy everybody, from the expected Germany, UK, France and US, to the usually more expensive locations in Australia, Panama and Hong Kong. If you are a Pandora radio listener, here goes a free tip, Pandora works with an Australian or New Zealand VPN IP and they broadcast half the advertisements than they do with a US location.

Privacy wise, ibVPN keeps no traffic logs but connection logs are kept for one week,  you will not get away with major crime, this is not what the VPN is for, you are protected from privacy invasion reducing logs to a minimum with a considerably much shorter lifespan than the 6 months logs email providers normally keep but you are not totally invisible like you would be in Tor.

ibVPN Windows client VPN provider
ibVPN Windows client VPN provider

Payments can be made anonymously with Bitcoin, there are discounts for businesses and family VPN accounts that allow simultaneous VPN connections from multiple devices and a special Torrent only package to be exclusively used in torrents with certain servers in countries where copyright is not strictly enforced.

ibVPN US&Canada VPN yearly package is unquestionably cheap, if your main reason for a VPN is to be able to watch online US TV I would buy this package or the ibDNS. They both cost the same, by choosing ibVPN over ibDNS you will not only be able to stream restricted video content but also protect your online privacy when surfing the Internet or downloading files. Their Total VPN package is competitively priced in comparison with similar services, the main reason why I would recommend ibVPN over other VPN companies is because the DNS streaming services are included in the Total VPN price and other companies charge for this separately.

Privacy paranoid types might want to look for a different VPN provider with zero logs like iVPN due to Invisible Browsing VPN one week connection logs retention, other than that this is a good service.

Visit ibVPN homepage