There are many messaging apps which provide a free and easy service to communicate with our friends and families. However, before you download any app make sure to take a step back and examine whether your choice can adequately guard your privacy and security. One way to determine that is if the app offers end-to-end encryption (E2EE).

Without encryption, private messages can be read by the company behind the app, as well as third parties such as governments who like to collect private data on their citizens. Not even using the best VPN would help you if you’re using a messaging service that stores identifiable metadata about your conversations on its server.

What is End-To-End Encryption ?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. In principle, it prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation.

More importantly, encryption prevents apps from storing copies of your messages on its servers, which would put them within reach of government authorities.

There are thousand of messaging apps which are available for download. However here’s are some of the most widely-used, and secure, messaging apps.

iMessage

iMessages are texts, photos, or videos that you send to another iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac over Wi-Fi or cellular-data networks. These messages are always encrypted and appear in blue text bubbles. Apple’s iMessage is only available on Apple devices, but it packs a punch with its security features.

Wickr

Wickr is a free top-secret messaging app allowing its users to send and receive top-secret messages, pictures, videos, audios, and files. Founded by privacy and security advocates in San Francisco in 2012, Wickr was one of the first messaging apps to adopt end-to-end encryption. Messages are encrypted by default, and the company undergoes regular security audits. As of 2017, Wickr is also open-source.

READ
TikTok Is Adding Clarity To Content Removals

The app comes in two forms: Wickr Me and Wickr Pro. The former is free and for personal use, while the latter is for businesses, who pay a subscription fee. Wickr has several features that make the app secure, including screenshot detection, blocking third-party keyboards on iOS, and ensuring any deleted files are completely unrecoverable.

Viber

Viber has about 260 million monthly active users. It’s enabled end-to-end encryption since April 2016. Viber’s security technology creates an environment where two devices communicate using a secret code instead of plain, understandable text. Only the device sending the message and the device receiving the message have the key to decipher the code. Not even Viber can read and understand this code, and anyone who tries to hack or spy on this communication will not be able to understand it.

The app has end-to-end encryption on all its available platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android) and also color codes your chats based on how secure they are: gray denotes encrypted communication, green means an encrypted communication with a trusted contact, and red means the authentication key has an issue. Viber also supports self-destructing messages in its secret chats feature.

Signal

Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. It uses the Internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and videos. Its mobile apps can also make one-to-one voice and video calls, and the Android version can optionally function as an SMS app.

Signal uses standard cellular telephone numbers as identifiers and uses end-to-end encryption to secure all communications to other Signal users. The apps include mechanisms by which users can independently verify the identity of their contacts and the integrity of the data channel.

READ
Facebook Launches Facebook Dating In Europe

Formerly called RedPhone, Signal is the darling of the information security community and is growing in popularity among ordinary users too. 

Telegram

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service. Telegram client apps are available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS and Linux. Users can send messages and exchange photos, videos, stickers, audio and files of any type.

As of April 2020, Telegram has 400 million monthly active users with at least 1.5 million new users signing up every day. The announcement included a promise to implement group video calls in 2020.

The default messages and media use client-server encryption during transit. This data is also encrypted at rest, but can be accessed by Telegram developers, who hold the encryption keys. In addition Telegram provides end-to-end encrypted calls and optional “secret” chats between two online users on smartphone clients. However, the desktop clients (excluding macOS client) do not feature end-to-end encryption, nor is end-to-end encryption available for groups, supergroups, or channels. Telegram has defended the lack of ubiquitous end-to-end encryption by claiming the online-backups that do not use client-side encryption are “the most secure solution currently possible”

Telegram was built by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, exiled Russian-born billionaires, previously famous for the Facebook clone Vkontakte (now VK). Pavel Durov had to leave VK in 2014 over a dispute about handing over Ukrainian protesters’ user data. Consequently, the brothers left Russia for Berlin and founded Telegram. However, Telegram does not have E2EE by default—you’ll need to use its secret chats feature to enable it.

Wire

Wire is an open source and collaborative messaging app that has both a free version and plenty of useful features: fully encrypted video calls, secure file sharing, synced messages between devices and others. Wire also offers a paid plan for organizations (large enterprises).

READ
Google Removes 3 Android Apps For Children, With 20M+ Downloads Between Them, Over Data Collection Violations

Text messages and pictures use the Proteus protocol for end-to-end encryption. Proteus is based on the Axolotl ratchet and pre-keys that are optimized for mobile and multi-device messaging.

Voice and video calls use the WebRTC standard. More precisely, DTLS and KASE are used for key negotiation and authentication and SRTP is used for encrypted media transport. This means that voice calls are end-to-end encrypted with perfect forward secrecy enabled without compromising HD call quality.

Wire’s encryption works transparently in the background and doesn’t need to be activated — it’s always on. There’s no need to compromise security for usability or settle for missing features. Wire keeps everything private while avoiding the complexity that is common to other secure messengers.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an American freeware, cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service owned by Facebook, Inc.  It allows users to send text messages and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media.

Security-wise, WhatsApp’s E2EE by default enhances its privacy and security from malicious actors. Security flaws have appeared in the past, but if cybercriminals breached WhatsApp today, they couldn’t decrypt your conversations.

WhatsApp end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what’s sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. Your messages are secured with locks, and only the recipient and you have the special keys needed to unlock and read your messages. For added protection, every message you send has an unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically: No need to turn on settings or set up special secret chats to secure your messages.

READ
What Is Metadata And How To Remove Metadata?