Private Messengers - PF V.

Learn which messaging apps to avoid and which ones to use instead. Find out which apps provide the best encryption and protection against governmental surveillance.

PRIVACY AND SECURITY FUNDAMENTALS SERIES

1/17/20243 min read

Importance of maintaining privacy and security in digital communication has become crucial. With the rise of governmental surveillance, it is essential to choose the right platform. Sadly, market is poisoned by apps claiming to be private, even if they aren't (completely). In this blog post, we will discuss which messengers should you avoid, which one should you go for and why. Let's dive into the world of encrypted messengers!

Which ones to avoid

SMS/iMessages

The bare minimum.

Pros:

+ Everybody uses them (except the informed minority)

Cons:

- SMS are unencrypted

- iMessages claim to be encrypted, but no way to verify

- Eavesdroppable

Telegram

During times, Telegram has grown on popularity and for no reason became know as "private messenger". The opposite is the truth. Unless enabled by user, User-to-user chats are unencrypted. Group chats don't even offer encryption.

Pros:

+ Offers a "Secret Chat" feature with end-to-end encryption

+ Large user base

Cons:

- Unencrypted by default

- Group chats are unencrypted

- Servers are closed source

WhatsApp,

Facebook Messenger

Owned by Meta Platforms Inc., WhatsApp is widely used worldwide. Adoption is almost on the same level as SMS. WhatsaApp claims to be encrypted, but there's not way to verify this claim.

Pros:

+ Widely used worldwide

+ Easy to use interface

Cons:

- Owned by Meta Platforms Inc.

- Potential privacy concerns due to parent company

- Closed Source (no way to verify encryption)

Which ones to go for

Signal

Known for its strong encryption, Signal is a popular choice among privacy enthusiasts. It supports end-to-end encryption for individual and group chats, making it ideal for secure communication. In September 2023, Signal implemented Quantum Resistance.

Pros:

+ Strong encryption

+ Supports voice, video, and live streaming

+ Good UX

+ Free

Cons:

- Centralised

- Notifies people who have you in their contact list that you started using Signal

- Required phone Number

Threema

Focusing on user privacy, Threema requires no phone numbers or email addresses for registration

Pros:

+ Swiss based (strong privacy laws)

+ Requires no phone numbers or email addresses for registration

+ Perfect Forward Secrecy (prevents attacker from accessing all messages if they crack one key)

Cons:

- Smaller user base compared to competitors

- Fewer features compared to other messengers

- Centralised

- Un-updated encryption

- Payed ($5 one time fee)

SimpleX Chat

This new instant messenger doesn't use any unique identifiers, phone numbers or usernames. You can read more about how it works here.

Pros:

+ No unique identifier

+ Decentralized

Cons:

- Still under development (some things just don't work)

Element

Element the client for the Matrix protocol, open standard for secure decentralized real-time communication.

Pros:

+ Works on protocol (As email, internet - cannot be shut down)

+ Decentralized

+ Possibility to run local servers (without connection to World Internet)

Cons:

- Occasional instability

- Not as easy to use as other options

- Servers can see who is communicating with whom

Conclusion

For somebody who thought: "Are my messages even encrypted?", and has used options from to avoid list until now - use Signal or Threema. Or both. Both of them have a great network already, Signal little bigger. On the other hand, Threema offers anonymous accounts. But if you wish not to disclose your real phone number for Signal, you can use burner SIM or anonymous eSIM (silent.link). Try to avoid SMS, iMessages, Telegram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

But sometimes there is no other option than to use the less secure apps. Family, Work or School... you name it. They will mainly use SMS, WhatsApp of F. Messenger. When it's possible, try to be "intolerant minority" and force others to use something more secure.

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