In a world full of technology, there is plenty of information to be found online. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of people who take advantage of this information. If your personal information isn’t stored securely, it can be easily accessed by ill-intending individuals or groups.
However, this brings us to the question: what makes secure information storage? Today, we’re going to look at different messaging apps and their security. Then, we’ll compare them to find out which one is the safest.
Telegram was developed in 2013 and is one of the first apps to use end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that the messages send and stored between two people are encrypted. A third-party cannot decrypt them which makes these messages save. However, Telegram does not yet have end-to-end encryption for group-texts as these groups can contain up to 100,000 people.
What Telegram does offer is self-destructing messages. These messages destruct and are deleted after a set amount of time, making it easier to limit access to third parties that may be looking over your shoulder.
Telegram uses optional end-to-end encryption, meaning that people can choose whether or not they want their messages to be encrypted. However, it’s assumed that most people don’t use this type of encryption during their chats.
A downside to Telegram is that the exact locations of the headquarters are unknown, making it nearly impossible to subject them to jurisdiction. Telegram also uses their personal encryption algorithm protocol, which cannot be translated.
Signal was developed by Open Whisper Systems (OWS). This software company is funded by subsidies and gifts from other organizations. All of their products are free and open for the public to use.
Signal is just like any other messaging app in many aspects. For example, you can send text messages, images, videos, music, and files to other people in your contact list. Just like Telegram, Signal allows users to use a self-destructing message of which the timer can be set from 5 seconds up to a week.
On the same note, Signal also offers to ‘lock’ screenshots, preventing any information from being saved in someone else’s phone.
Signal uses an open-source end-to-end encryption by default, meaning that users won’t have to choose themselves to lock their messages. When you want to add a contact, you need to take an extra step to verify the other user through safety numbers or a QR-code. Signal also refuses to back-up information in the cloud, storing them safely and locally instead.
A downside of Signal is that it requires people to verify their account with an SMS. This means that people without SIM-card can’t make use of the apps services.
WhatsApp is possibly the most popular messaging app around. With more than 1,5 billion people using this application, it must be safe to use, right? Many people presume that when an app is used by millions, it must be trustworthy. We’re going to take a look at WhatsApp’s security measures to see if those people are correct.
Starting from 2016, all WhatsApp messages are protected under end-to-end encryption according to the Signal protocol. This prevents any third party, including the messenger itself to read the messages that you send and receive.
Each contact you talk to has a personal security code which helps you to identify who they are. However, this is a function that you need to activate manually. This end-to-end encryption allows people to talk safely and freely without fear of a middle-man attack.
Still, when WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, there was a terms of service update that seemed oddly suspicious: all WhatsApp data would be shared with Facebook. While WhatsApp stopped this sharing, it still raised the people’s concerns.
Another downside is that when the conversations are stored in the cloud or backed-up, the encryption loses its function, allowing third parties to view the information anyway.
WhatsApp does have one big perk: you can delete messages that are already sent. This function is still limited to about an hour after sending confirmation, but it can prevent others from seeing it. The message can be deleted for one or both parties. However, it does leave a “message was deleted” notification instead.
Threema is a Zwitserland based application that has more than 5 million users. While the app is more popular in German-speaking countries, it offers a function not many other apps have: the ability to divide business and personal chats.
When you register on the app, you’ll receive an anonymous ID and password. You don’t have to fill in any profile name and picture, and linking the account to your email and phone number is optional, making it a very private app.
The app automatically accesses your contacts, but you can easily turn this function off to maintain your privacy. Threema calls this ‘data restraint’ as they say that only known data can be attacked. So, the less they know, the better.
You can hide any private chats with a pin-code, allowing you to use this extra security measure when needed. Each contact can have one of three colors, green for people you know in person, yellow for verified people, and red for unknown people. When you want to mark someone as ‘green’, you have to physically scan their QR-code in order to verify them.
The only disadvantage Threema has for now is that they can’t offer video calling services yet. Their security system seems to be in order without any faults. The app also costs a small amount of money, €2,99 in the Google Play Store and €3,49 in the App Store.
Right now, we’ve compared four known messaging apps using their services and security measures. As always, you have the final say in the decisions you make. However, when it comes to Telegram and WhatsApp, we do not recommend these applications as the news around their security systems are too vague to verify whether they can be trusted or not.
Signal is a trustworthy application, and better-known alternative to WhatsApp. Still, you need to have access to a phone with a working SIM-card to activate your account.
We highly recommend Threema, even though it’s not as popular as Signal. The app is safe, can be accessed without needing to enter your email or phone number, and you can manually verify trustworthy people. While you do need to pay for the app, it’s a small one-time payment which is worth more than losing your personal information to an unknown third-party.