Data breaches have become increasingly common in recent years. Basically, any app or device that’s connected to the internet is a potential target for hackers, including popular messaging apps. Just last year, the Financial Times reported a vulnerability that allowed hackers to install surveillance software on the world’s most popular messaging app — WhatsApp.
The security flaw allowed attackers to install malicious code on both Android and iOS devices using WhatsApp’s built-in call functionality. According to the Financial Times article, the users did not even have to answer the WhatsApp call for the malware to be transmitted to their devices. In March 2020, researchers discovered troves of unsecured data belonging to Iranian Telegram users.
In 2018, the Iranian government banned Telegram and unofficial versions of the app became popular in the country. Researchers haven’t been able to establish whether most of the data from 42 million Telegram accounts — including phone numbers, usernames, and ‘hashes’ or unique codes — was hacked from Telegram users or unofficial chat apps using the same source code as Telegram.
Safe and Secure Chat Apps
Data leaks on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram highlighted the vulnerabilities of consumer apps. These attacks have become all too common to ignore. The solution is to look for a safe and secure messaging app that will protect your conversations and personal information from government entities, private companies, and advertisers. As an additional measure, downloading a VPN can encrypt all your data in transit and add a layer of security to your communications.
Here are the top messaging apps that offer the highest level of security.
Developed by Open Whisper Systems, Signal is one of the most popular privacy-oriented messaging apps today. All communication on Signal is encrypted end-to-end by default. Encryption has always been the core of Open Whisper Systems. The company created the chat app as a successor to their encrypted texting and voice calling apps. The signal does not store user data and comes with an open-source encryption engine that allows anyone to inspect the code.
Dust is another messaging app that allows users to send private, encrypted, and self-deleting text messages. Previously known as Cyber Dust, the company uses a combination of AES 128 and RSA 248 encryption to enhance security and privacy on the social communication platform. The heavy encryption means that messages are not available to anyone except the intended recipients.
Threema is a privacy-focused calling and texting app with secure end-to-end encryption. The app also supports group chats, voice calls, media files, and status messages, and it uses key fingerprint and QR code verification to defend against man-in-the-middle attacks. The app has a feature that allows users to protect individual chats with a PIN code. Messages sent via Threema are deleted from the server as soon as they are delivered.
This messaging app is similar to Threema in a lot of ways. Developed by a group of privacy advocates and security experts, Wickr protects and controls your most critical communications with end-to-end encryption. What sets Wickr apart from other secure messaging apps on this list is that it prioritizes anonymity. Wickr does not even ask for personal information during the sign-up process.
Developed in 2016, Pinngle prioritizes safe, secure, and private information exchange. The app’s serverless architecture and default end-to-end encryption ensure that no state agencies or any other third parties can listen in on your private conversations. Only the sender and the recipient can access communications on Pinngle. Like many popular chat apps out there, Pinngle supports free messaging and high-quality voice and video calling.
If recent events are anything to go by, some of the world’s most popular messages apps are not as secure as they claim to be. WhatsApp, for instance, is owned by Facebook, a company notorious for collecting user information for targeted advertisements. Encryption is not turned on by default on Telegram, which means third parties can access your messages. If your priority is privacy, security, and confidentiality, you’re better off with the aforementioned alternatives.