Most Secure Messaging Apps with End-to-End Encryption

Most Secure Messaging Apps with End-to-End Encryption

We exchange tons of information via messages which raises privacy and security concerns. A secure messaging app provides end-to-end encryption for improved online privacy and security.

Messaging apps have introduced to us a whole new world where we can keep in touch with all our friends, family, coworkers, and clients even if they are to the other side of the worlds.

Through messaging apps, we can exchange text messages, images, videos, and even share documents.

But in today's world, we must not forget one important aspect of keeping our privacy safe online - using secure apps and pieces of software.

From the government and companies to cybercriminals, many can be after our sensitive information. So it' important to make sure the messaging apps we use to communicate are secure and encrypted.

We compiled a list with the most secure messaging apps so you further improve your data privacy. Here we go!


The importance of end-to-end encryption

End-to-end encryption is when the communications are encrypted so no third party can have access to the information. When two people communicate through an app that features end-to-end encryption, the information is not sent as plain text but by using a secret code.

Without encryption, your conversations can get in the hands of cybercriminals as the messages are sent in plain text and anyone that intercepts them can read them. With encryption, even if someone manages to interfere with your communications, they will be unreadable without the deciphering key.

Let's quickly explain how end-to-end encryption works. When you open an app that provides end-to-end encryption, two keys are generated - one public key and one private key. The private key never leaves your device. The public key lives on a server and it's available to anyone you might exchange conversations with. When your friend sends you a message, the public key is retrieved and your friend's message gets encrypted so only the private key on your device can decrypt it. The encrypted message is sent to you and the private key on your device is used to decrypt the message so only you can read it.

Because of the encryption, only the people in the conversation can read the messages. No one else is able to read them, including the government, the app provider, or your ISP (Internet Service Provider).


Most secure messaging apps

1. WhatsApp

With over 1.5 billion users, WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps out there and it's also one of the most secure of them all. It is a free messaging service owned by Facebook that allows users to send text and voice messages, make voice and video calls, share images, documents, locations, and other types of media. It's available on Android and iOS devices, as well as Windows and Mac desktop computers. In 2018, they also released WhatsApp Business, an app dedicated to small business owners to make it easy for companies to communicate with their customers through WhatsApp.

Starting with 2016, the messages sent through the WhatsApp app are end-to-end encrypted by default. This means that the content of the messages is not stored on WhatsApp servers and even the company is not able to decrypt the messages because it doesn't hold the encryption keys. They are not able to give away the messaging data even if they should be served with a warrant from authorities.

The only security concern the WhatsApp app raises is linked to the fact that it is owned by Facebook. The social media giant is well known for its efforts to collect as much users' data as possible. And there were multiple times when Facebook failed to keep user data safe.

In May 2019, cybercriminals have found a vulnerability in the WhatsApp messaging app they exploited to inject spyware on victims' phones. The attackers only needed to issue calls to the victims, without the users needing to answer the calls for the attack to succeed. The vulnerability has been patched.

2. Signal

Signal is, at this date, probably the most secure messaging app out there. Their end-to-end encryption is known to keep users' messages and calls private and secure because they can not be accessed by anyone.

The Signal messaging app is supported on Android, iOS, and Windows devices and it provides all the features a user might need for its communications such as text and voice messages, voice and video calls, chats, file and media sharing, and even disappearing messages. And it is completely free. The only thing you need to register is a cellular mobile number. One of the biggest advantages of this messaging app is that it's open-source. This means that anyone has access to check it for security flaws even though no flaw has been fount to this day. Additionally, the app is clean and simple, without being stuffed by ads, web tracking, and other unnecessary features.

The Signal app is recommended by various leading figures in the cybersecurity and privacy field, including Edward Snowden, the well-known whistle-blower.

3. Telegram

Telegram is another popular messaging app with over 100 million users. The app is available on all smartphone devices (Android, iOS, Windows) and for desktops with Windows, macOS, and Linux. The Telegram app is much appreciated for its sleek design, along with its cool features such as stickers, audio memos, and basic photo and video editing.

The Telegram messaging app is also valued for the security it provides to its users, although it does have a couple of aspects that raise some concerns. For one, the app is not open source, which means that the code for the encryption protocol hasn't been audited by third-party security experts. Secondly, end-to-end encryption is not enabled by default. If you want to keep your conversations private on Telegram, you must first make sure you are in Secret mode.

4. Facebook Messenger

Who doesn't know about the Facebook Messenger app? One of the main reasons to use this messaging app is because most of your friends already have it.

Still, not many know that Facebook Messenger offers end-to-end encryption for the messages because this feature is not enabled by default. To encrypt your conversations, you must turn on the Secret Conversation setting before starting to chat. You are not able to encrypt the conversations you've already had.

The end-to-end encryption keeps the content of your messages safe so they can't be intercepted by hackers, spied on by Facebook, or demanded by authorities. Yet, this doesn't mean that Facebook isn't using your communications to collect more user data. The app still tracks other aspects such as who you're chatting with and where from so they can improve their services and products.

Overall, if you don't mind Facebook policy regarding collecting users data and the fact that you must manually enable the end-to-end encryption, the Facebook Messenger app is quite safe to use. And, besides almost everyone already having it installed, the app provides all kinds of features such as sharing files and media, locations, group chatting, voice, and video calling, stickers and GIFs, and even inside the app games.

5. Threema

Threema is another great secure messaging app that aims to provide a service that keeps your data safe from cybercriminals, corporations, and the government.

Everything you send via the Threema app is encrypted, including voice calls, group chats, media files, and even the status message. And besides encrypting the conversations, the app makers took a step forward for users' security and privacy and they delete every message from their servers once it's been delivered. Contact details are also deleted from their servers and they are only stored on your device.

Moreover, unlike other messaging apps, you can anonymously chat through the Threema app. You don't need a phone number, email, or other identifiable information to use heir services.

The app provides all the features you might need from text and voice messages and sharing all types of files (videos, photos, locations, GIFs, PDFs, and more) to even creating polls. One of its best features is that it allows you to verify the identity of a contact with a QR code or key fingerprint to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

The only downside of Theerma is that it is not free to use. But the small fee might be worth it for the enhanced security and anonymity they provide.

6. Silence

Silence is a secure messaging app that focuses on protecting your privacy when communicating with friends via SMS or MMS rather than through online chats. You don't need an internet connection for the app to do its job and it also works with your default SMS app. Your friends don't need to also install Silence

The Silence app uses the same open-source encryption method as Signal, which means that it is regularly checked by security experts for flaws and vulnerabilities.

This is a great app to encrypt your SMSs so you enhance the security on your phone. And you can also set up a passcode to keep the app locked.

7. iMessage

Apple is well known for the high cybersecurity they provide to their users. iMessage is an alternative to the SMS messages for users owning iOS 5 devices or later. The messages sent through this app are sent via the internet but, if the recipient doesn't have an internet connection, the message can also be sent as an SMS.

All the messages sent through the iMessage app are encrypted by default and can only be read by the recipient. The app offers features such as sending texts, photos, videos, audio messages, creating group chats, camera effects, and even creating Animoji and Memoji.

The iMessage app still has some vulnerabilities, such as users not being able to verify contacts' identities, hence being prone to man-in-the-middle attacks. Also, some information such as mobile numbers and contact lists is stored in plain text, and the data synced to iCloud is not encrypted.

8. Wire

Wire is another secure encrypted messaging app that might worth a try. This app provides end-to-end encryption by default for all your conversations, including files, images, and video calls. Moreover, it complies with all EU data and privacy laws.

The Wire app is open source and has a hand full of awesome features such as HD video calls, conference calls, the ability to create guests rooms so you can communicate with those that don't have a Wire account. It's available on all platforms (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux) and most browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Edge).

The downside of Wire is that they collect some of the users' data such as records of who you've been in contact with, emails, phone numbers, and usernames.

9. Wickr

Wickr is a secure messaging app that's been developed in 2012 by a group of security and privacy experts, which makes it one of the most secure messaging apps out there.

Besides encrypting all the conversations, the Wickr app is also open source. They don't collect any user data or metadata. One amazing feature of this app is the Shredder. This allows you to erase all the conversations and files you ever shared on the platform, even at a specific time chosen by you.

Another important aspect to note is that Wickr doesn't require you to provide a phone address or email to register to their services, which means you can keep yourself anonymous for more private communication.


Conclusion

We've gone over the list with the most secure messaging apps that provide end-to-end encryption. We also picked the ones that are a bit more popular since it might be easier for you to find your peers through these apps.

Keep in mind that some popular apps such as Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat do not offer end-to-end encryption, so your messages and the files you share are no secured.

Encryption means that the messages are scrambled so only the sender and the receiver are able to read what's being sent. If someone should hack into your messaging app due to a poorly secured WiFi network at your favorite coffee shop, they still won't be able to read the conversations.

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