Android

B-Folders secures sensitive data on Android devices

If you carry sensitive data on your Android smartphone or tablet, Jack Wallen recommends using the B-Folders application to keep your information safe.

We have become a nation of mobile data junkies. For many of us, mobile devices are our lifelines to just about every aspect of our lives. This can be a big problem when some of those lifelines involve sensitive information. If credit card details, passwords, and sensitive contact information is on your default phone, it's pretty much there for the taking. It doesn't have to be that way -- there are plenty of ways to keep sensitive data on your mobile hidden from prying eyes.

One of my favorite means of data obfuscation is to use a free tool called B-Folders. This tool allows for the creation of folders on an Android phone or tablet. In the folders, you can store the following data:

  • Folder
  • Note
  • Contact
  • Credit Card
  • Login password
  • Bookmark

There is a desktop client of B-Folders that can be used to manage an encrypted database. The desktop client will run you $29.95 for single user unlimited desktops and can be installed on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Further down in this tutorial, I provide instructions on how to sync B-Folders to the desktop client.

Installing B-Folders

The installation of an application on Android is simple, and B-Folders is no exception. All you need to do is open the Android Market, search for "b folders" (no quotes), and install the resulting application. Once B-Folders is installed, you can find it in the application drawer.

Using B-Folders

First, you need to create a folder where information will be stored. To do this, open B-Folders and then tap the Folders button (Figure A). Figure A

The Unlocked indicator means the folder is currently unlocked and accessible.

When you first tap the Folders button, B-Folders will require a password to be created for the new folder; it is crucial that this is a strong password. Remember, the security keeping the sensitive data from prying eyes is only as secure as the password protecting it. Once the password is created and confirmed, the folder will be created, and then you can add new items.

To add an item to the folder, tap the New Item button and then select the type of item to be added. The next window will vary, depending upon the type of item to be added. Figure B illustrates the type of information necessary for adding a new login password. Figure B

To add notes to this login password, tap the Notes tab.

You can add the other types of items in similar fashion; the only variation will be the information necessary for each item type.

Configuring B-Folders

There are a number of configuration options. One of the most important options is the idle timeout. By default, B-Folders will re-lock a folder after three minutes; this can be changed from within the folder's settings or when the folder's password is entered (Figure C). Figure C

A 30-second timeout is the quickest option.

You should choose the fastest time out you can deal with because, if a long timeout is selected, someone could access that data if you leave your mobile device unattended, and you had just accessed the data. The timeout applies whether the B-Folders application is open or not. You can manually lock the database by tapping the Lock button on the application home page.

From the Settings page (tap Settings from the Home page to access), it is possible to configure the following:

  • Database Location: Either on the phone memory or SD card.
  • Auto Lock Timeout: Another location where you can configure the timeout.
  • Sort Folders: List folders before other items.
  • Peer Name: The name that will be displayed on machines that can connect with the B-Folders desktop client.
  • Port Number: The port number used on the client machines to connect.
  • Backup Database: Back up the B-Folders database to the desktop client.
  • Change Password: Change the current password.
  • Export Data: Export all data to a non-encrypted CSV file onto a SD card.
  • Delete Database: Delete the current database.

Syncing B-Folders to the desktop

The desktop client is very simple to use. It does require the mobile device to be on the same network as the client, so connect using Wi-Fi.

You can find the installation file for the desktop client on the download page. Install the necessary client and then fire it up (Figure D). Figure D

The client interface is simple and allows quick access to the various databases sync'd from the mobile devices. (Click the image to enlarge.)

To sync a database, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Desktop Client on the target desktop.
  2. Open B-Folders on the mobile.
  3. Tap the Sync button from the Home page.
  4. Tap Add Peer (Figure E).
  5. Enter the details for the Peer (the desktop client machine) and tap OK.
  6. Tap on the Peer you wish to sync with.

Figure E

When you add the peer, you should make sure to configure the same port as is used on the desktop client (the defaults should work).

The database should now be synchronized on the desktop and should also be editable on the client.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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