Learning how to send encrypted messages is the new frontier in privacy. In the old days, the government must have a wiretap warrant first to take private information from you. Now, it seems that the government (and any company that feels like doing it) could steal information from your private conversations. But using encrypted messages can counter that.
How to send encrypted messages with apps
The use of encryption in all your digital activities is becoming essential. This is why VPNs are becoming so popular as they mask all your metadata, specifically the websites that you visit.
In a similar vein, encrypted messaging apps encrypt all your metadata, the names of specific people you are talking to, and what you are saying to them. Encryption is your ally in all instances of digital communication.
Let’s look at the encrypted messaging apps that will help you.
How to send encrypted messages with WhatsApp
OS: Android, iOS
WhatsApp is easily the most popular among encrypted messaging apps. How popular? It has over 1.5 billion daily users. I am one of them; in fact, my brother just sent me a text on WhatsApp right now as I am typing this. My brother and I are the only two people on earth who are aware of the fact that we are talking now about basketball.
WhatsApp does this with default end-to-end encryption. This means that your communications, pictures, videos, and calls sent over the app are only decrypted on your phone and the phone of the person that is receiving the message. Not even WhatsApp can see encrypted messages.
Possible drawbacks of WhatsApp
There is indeed a drawback to using WhatsApp, and it could be a big one: Facebook owns it. The other two main drawbacks are:
- WhatsApp’s encryption protocol is open source, but the rest of the app is not. This means that security-minded individuals cannot check the app to verify if it is indeed secure.
- WhatsApp reserves the right to collect and share message metadata as well as contact information.
If you want to exchange nudes privately with that hottie you met last Friday, WhatsApp is fine. However, those that need the highest level of encryption and privacy may want to keep reading.
How to send encrypted messages with Signal
OS: Android, iOS
The funding of Signal comes from donations and grants. There are no advertisements, no metadata logs. It does not record any contact information. The entire goal of Signal is to record as little data as possible—the goal of an encrypted messaging app. Signal is also cheaper.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
Possible drawback of Signal
The main drawback here is the fact that not many people use Signal. That hottie you met last Friday? It is unlikely that your new friend has it.
For now, I would focus on getting your most private contacts on it and then work on your general friends later. Signal simply does not have the name recognition to get everyone on it just yet.
How to send encrypted messages with Telegram
OS: Windows phone, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
Telegram is probably the second most popular encrypted messaging app with over 200 million monthly active users. Yes, it is still dwarfed by WhatsApp. But thanks to its wide user database, you can use encryption and connect to many people that you meet.
Drawbacks of Telegram
Unfortunately, Telegram is not a very good encrypted messaging app. Here are the main reasons why:
- Encryption is not turned on by default. This means that you do not know if the person receiving your message has encryption on.
- The encryption protocol is not available for scrutiny. No one can be 100% sure that the app doesn’t have a backdoor.
- Messages are stored on unencrypted servers. This is absolutely a no-no.
We included Telegram on this list to steer people away from it. Many people, probably most of its 100 million users, believe that it is a 100% secure form of encrypted communication. It simply is not. I strongly urge you to consider using Signal for your most secure messaging needs and WhatsApp for more general use.
Telegram has reached 200 million monthly active users. Thanks for spreading the word! https://t.co/LGCUghfyJU
— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) March 22, 2018
The best way how to send encrypted messages
There are two main things to look at here:
- Signal is clearly the superior encrypted messaging app.
- However, it has a low number of users, making it difficult to use the Signal app.
For now, I would encourage you to at least have WhatsApp on your phone. When you come across higher levels of encryption needs, I would encourage you to switch over to Signal with your contacts.
With secure and encrypted messaging taken care of, you can now look at secure email. It would also be very beneficial to have a mobile VPN on your phone or laptop so that you can safely use public Wi-Fi.