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Safe Me - Review 2021


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.

Easy Install

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.

Hands On With Safe Me

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.

Safe Me Score

When I first launched the app, it showed a score of 0.45 on a red background, and a risk level of Very High. Within a minute, the score changed to 2.71, the background shifted to yellow, and the risk level dropped to Medium. Whew! My contacts at the company explained that these values will fluctuate as the app performs its initial analyses.

Tapping the score brought up a page with a lengthy description of what factors go into the Safe Me Score, and how to raise that score. The score aims to represent “the likelihood of a breach happening in a year due to a lack of an individual’s awareness of cybersecurity practices.” The higher the score, the lower the worry.

Three main factors go into this score. Safe Me comes with a series of cybersecurity courses; passing them raises your score. The app offers advice to remediate any configuration settings that put the device’s security at risk. Naturally, following that advice raises your score. The third factor, “Attack propensity based on the personal profile,” wasn’t clear to me. My contacts explained that this factor is relevant in the enterprise-level edition of Safe Me, but not for individual users.

Fix Those Settings

Naturally, I wanted to get a better score, so I started exploring the app. Three of the five icons lined up at the bottom represent different ways you can level up. One points out security problems with your device’s settings, one lists personal data found on the dark web, and one links to a collection of courses to teach you better security practices. The other two icons let you view and edit your profile or return to the main Safe Me Score screen. I started out with the device security component, represented by a smartphone icon.

Safe Me Android Settings

On my Android test device, Safe Me had some gripes. It wanted me to change the device’s sleep time from five minutes to one minute or less; I obeyed. It also had me turn off notifications on the lock screen, since anybody who got hold of the device could see those.

Tapping any of the suggested changes brought up a thorough description of the problem. For example, leaving Location Services on all the time opens the possibility that someone could track you. Safe Me advises turning off this feature when not in use, with the caveat that this could make finding a lost device difficult. I went ahead and killed Location Services.

Having USB Debugging enabled is a big no-no, as it provides entry to numerous hack attacks. Bluetooth is another potential attack vector. Safe Me made sure both those settings were disabled.

The remaining item proved problematic. Safe Me noted that the Android device (an aging Moto G5 Plus) doesn’t have the latest version of Android. But Motorola dropped update support ages ago, leaving this phone stuck at Android 8.1 (Oreo). There was no way I could comply with Safe Me, and no option to have it ignore the item.

On iOS, Safe Me made fewer demands. It would have advised me to set a passcode, enable Touch ID, and use encrypted communications, but my iPhone already had the correct settings. I did need to update the operating system, as a new iOS version dropped overnight.

Dark Web Exposure

At one point while I was working on device settings, I noticed that instead of increasing, my score dropped to 1.02. This may have been caused by completion of the dark web exposure scan. Safe Me found 29 instances of data breaches involving the email address I used for my account.

Safe Me Dark Web Exposure

Most of the supposed breaches were years old, and most were familiar to me, because I’ve used other products that perform similar scans. 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.

Courses, of Course

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!

Safe Me Courses

That left only the security training courses. Safe Me listed 25 required courses as well as several dozen optional ones. These courses had names like Safe Laptop Usage—MacBook, Safe from Call Scams, and Safe Work from Home. For each course, you watch a video that’s around three minutes long and then answer a series of quiz questions. Most came with four or five questions, a very few with three or six. If you get more than one answer wrong, you don’t pass, but you’re free to try again.

Some of the video courses used 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.

Safe Me Course Video

Fortunately, you don’t have to watch the video before taking the quiz. If you think you already understand the topic, you can jump straight to the quiz. And if you don’t pass, then it’s time to go back and watch. I got through the 25 courses in about an hour by skipping most of the videos.

Some of the content proved very puzzling. Why do I need to know about reporting cybercrime in India? What is “Safe BHIM” or “Safe Paytm”? It turns out that BHIM and Paytm are electronic payment services mostly used in India, where Lucideus originated. My company contacts explained, “Lucideus is constantly adding courses relevant for various regions… In the near future, the app will be showing courses based on region-specific preferences and will continue to fine-tune these lists.”

Safe Me Course Quizzes

With all required courses complete, my score rose to an encouraging 3.94. And there it stuck, because my test Android device isn’t capable of an OS upgrade.

Give It a Try

Safe Me is an engaging little app that will almost certainly improve the security and privacy of your smartphone usage. Give it a try. Change the settings as it recommends, take the security courses, even the ones that aren’t relevant to your locale, and work through any reported dark web exposures. Once you’ve completed those tasks, it could still alert you to further data exposures, but for the most part its work is done.

There are a vast number of approaches to protecting your privacy, among them using encrypted email, hiding your actual email address, foiling trackers, and encrypting your data. It’s hard to identify an Editors’ Choice winner in the privacy realm, but we’ve settled on 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.

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