Personally, I have been communicating with clients and family scattered all around the globe for years on end, so Internet messaging apps have been highly important for me. A while ago, apps such as AIM, Windows Messenger and Skype were more than enough. These are still fine for the communication part, but I do not accept to be spied on and to have my conversations shared with government agencies, such as the NSA.
Some of these services are actually encrypted, but revelations about PRISM, a spy program of the NSA, and also revelations about other spy programs, have proved that the abovementioned messaging apps were not private or actually secure at any point in the past. Even now, new scandals and privacy controversies continue to pop up in relation to the services.
The fact that there is no real security or privacy on the big-name services has actually resulted in the development of some brand new messaging apps and services. These developments are trying to provide some secure communications that are as secure as they should be. Back in April 2020, there are dozens of messaging apps available that try to be secure. In this article, we have looked into the field and explain what we think are the 5 best secure messaging apps of the year.
Some of the characteristics that we evaluate in a secure messaging app include multi-mode communications, end-to-end encryption, independence from major tech companies and multi-platform support. Some of the applications that score very high on all of these are:
The easiest answer to moving to a secure messaging app is Signal. The biggest endorsement for Signal is that it is used and advertised by famous privacy advocates such as Edward Snowden, who mentioned that he uses Signal every single day. Personally, I think that if Signal is could enough for Edward Snowden, it is good enough for me.
Signal has been created by a group called Open Whisper Systems. It does not come even close to the number of users that big apps like WhatsApp has (1.6 billion users) or Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion), but it does have the endorsement of some of the world’s experts on security and privacy.
The messaging protocol that has been incorporated into Signal is thought to be the most secure one there is. To get an idea of how good their messaging protocol is, other services use it for their own secure modes. For example, Facebook and Skype’s private conversations are inspired from Signal.
Telegram is, perhaps, the most popular secure messaging app in the world. Statista mentioned that as of July 2019, Telegram was the 8th most popular messaging app in the world. At the time, Telegram had about 200 million active users. Personally, I have been using Telegram for quite a while now, mostly because I need to communicate with a lot of organizations and people that also use Telegram.
Telegram offers a lot f useful privacy features. For example, secret chats with self-destructing messages and 2FA are some of these. Another nice feature is the ability to unsend your messages. You can delete a message both from your device and from the device of your recipient. Telegram also offers native applications for all major mobile and desktop operating systems out there. Of course, there are some cons to this application as well. Telegram does not provide transparency reports, servers are not open source, like other secure messaging apps, and the messages can, theoretically, be read by the company. Users of Telegram must also remember to enable E2E encryption, as it is not active by default.