The Need For End-to-end Encryption in SMS & Messaging Apps

In today’s age, there is a trend of oversharing every tiny detail of our lives on social media. So, there is no dearth of information available on the web about you. Anyone can find out your real address and phone number which is associated with your social networking profile. 

The Need For End-to-end Encryption on SMS & Messaging Apps

The Need For End-to-end Encryption on SMS & Messaging Apps

Added to this, sketchy persons or parties can get their hands on your other private data like your personal conversations. Using any random app for SMS and messaging will not be sufficient to make these private communications secure. However, there are many messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption that can make sure that your data remains private.

A Brief Look At End-to-End Encryption

End-to-end encryption means that the messages you send and receive are encrypted at these two ends. When you send an SMS using end-to-end encryption, it gets encrypted on your phone and when the recipient gets the message, it is decrypted. This eliminates the possibility of potential prying eyes from viewing your message, including the hosts of such services or the makers of those apps.

Speaking in simple terms, an E2EE connection uses a private key which is known to just the sender and the recipient that decrypts the messages at the receiving end. Without the private key, all one sees is just a long string of random characters.

An Example

Let us say that Alice and Bob communicate through an app that doesn’t have E2EE connection. There could be compromised servers or faulty nodes in the message route followed during their communication. Any malicious entity that lurks between the two ends can intercept such messages and steal their data.

However, with E2EE connection, Alice has a public key, with which she can encrypt the messages and Bob decrypts it using a private key. This is almost impossible to reverse unless you have any one of these keys. The data is secured between these two ends as it scrambled and looks like gibberish to spying eyes, making it impossible to decode.

Importance Of E2EE In Messaging Apps

Every phone has a chat app where people exchange information on a daily basis. With international messaging apps, which are the tremendous sources of interpersonal conversations, people become soft targets to hackers. Even if the data you send is not very important or is mundane, there are many software programs that are able to go through these and find ways to use the information on them.

Ways In Which Cybercriminals Can Use Our Data

While the popular perception of hackers who steal our data is that they are obscure organizations or sketchy individuals. But the truth is that our data can be stolen by governments, large corporations, telecom providers, or prominent institutions too. Upon these, there is the threat that is posed by malicious software that can gather bits and pieces of our private information.

Cybercriminals focus on getting your financial data, accounts’ passwords, online banking logins or social security numbers and use it for fraud and identity theft. They can drain your bank account or make a debt, destroying your credit rating. This is just one side of the coin, whereas the other angle is to manipulate your private correspondence. Everything like work-related discussions, romantic texts or images can be used by hackers to extort ransom from you.

Domestic and foreign governments alike indulge in spying on your data for reasons like internet censorship, security, to find out about your financial information or political ideologies of other country’s citizens. Some governments have begun forcing developers to build encryption backdoors into their messaging apps as well. Telecom companies and other corporations want your data and record your internet behavior to target you with ads for their profit.  

The Best E2E Encrypted Messaging Apps

Beware of some apps that are just labeled as “encrypted.” This doesn’t necessarily mean E2EE, some encrypt the messages during the transmission, not at the ends. In such cases, the servers can also decrypt, view, and store all your sensitive communications. E2EE, being among the simplest of the encrypting tools available, is the most reliable technique which can secure your data. Unfortunately, very few SMS and messaging apps have this option. So, here we give you some of the best end-to-end encrypted messaging apps:

Signal (For Android, Windows, iOS, macOS, and Linux)

Perhaps Signal is the messaging app that brought E2EE in messaging apps to the forefront. You can send and receive messages in files, images, videos, voice notes, images, videos, and make voice and video calls. Since it is a free and Open Source platform, anyone can audit and verify its code and ensure that there is no backdoor access. It also has a blocker and an app password to prevent screen scraping. You can control which data is allowed via cellular or WiFi connections. Unique color variation scheme for different contacts avoids sending a wrong message to a contact other than the intended recipient.

WhatsApp (Available On Most Platforms)

It is a free and secure messaging app available on desktop and mobile phones. The encryption protocol used is the same as the one in Signal. You can verify other users’ keys and will be notified if their keys change. You can make voice and video calls, send and receive images, location and other files.

Wickr Me – Private Messenger (For Most Platforms)

Wickr Me encrypts your messages locally on your device with a new key for each message. You can set expiration times on your encrypted messages, and it offers one-to-one conversations and group chats. You don’t even need your phone number or an email address to sign up, and hence your address book stays private. Wickr also doesn’t store metadata associated on your communications. You can find its source code on GitHub or the Wickr website.

Telegram (For Most Platforms)

It is still new to the market of instant messaging apps and uses a cloud-based service, but it is not controlled or supervised by the company. Switching your chats to P2P removes liability if the data stays online continuously. You can create private groups or public channels and message people individually or in groups, making it a mini social networking site.

Conclusion

Not just the NSA, authorities or criminals, we do not want anyone to know our private affairs. It is a no-brainer to know that your private messages should remain private and others have no business in knowing them. To avoid dire situations, use E2EE messaging apps, and add another security layer by installing a VPN.

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