This installment of the Private Internet Access series will deal with the PIA Android app. Private Internet Access for Android is, quite frankly, much more flexible than the iOS version. Unlike the iOS version, Private Internet Access for Android allows you access to almost all of the settings you have on desktop. It also allows you to deal with the VPN on a per-app basis.
Private Internet Access for Android Setup
First, download and install the Private Internet Access app from Google Play. Login using your PIA account credentials. The home screen of the app is a simple affair. The most prominent feature of the home screen is the ON/OFF toggle. Tapping the gear icon in the upper right of the interface will open the app’s settings.
PIA MACE: This is PIA’s proprietary ad-blocking system. I am still undecided about whether I like this system or not.
Block Local Network: This setting will prevent your device from connecting to local, peer-to-peer networks. I recommend leaving it checked.
Internet Kill Switch: This setting allows the application to block internet access to the phone if the VPN connection is dropped. This protects your phone from sending potentially sensitive information over an unencrypted connection. This setting may cause some issues when logging into networks that require a non-VPN connection, like hotel networks. It is up to you whether you wish to use this feature or not, but I recommend it.
Encryption Options: The defaults are optimized for a mix of good security and strong performance. I, however, opt for stronger security at the slight expense to performance. I recommend the strongest possible security settings: AES-256 for data encryption, SHA-256 for data authentication, and RSA-4096 for the handshake protocol (the screenshot below shows AES-128, SHA-1, and RSA-2048).
Autostart: I also strongly recommend enabling the “Connect on Boot” option. As soon as the phone is powered on and has cellular data or Wi-Fi connectivity, it will establish a connection with a VPN server.
Enable VPN per app: The app also allows you to choose specific apps that are routed through the VPN, and ones that are not. I recommend routing all traffic through the VPN. If you have an app or service that is not compatible for some reason, you should first question why it isn’t. If you need this app, and it will not work through PIA, you can toggle PIA “OFF” for that application, and still know that everything else is protected.
The VPN gateway list is accessed from the PIA app homescreen. Tap in the “Current Region” area on the app and the menu will open. You can select a gateway manually, or choose “Automatic”. Automatic allows the app to choose the server that is closest to you which may aid performance.
Private Internet Access for Android offers an impressive capability. It is one of the best all-around VPN applications I have found for mobile devices.
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