Following the revelations of many big-name privacy scandals over the last half-a-decade or so, including the likes of Snapchat, Apple, PlayStation, WordPress and Facebook, more and more people are wondering just how secure their most-used apps and websites are these days. As the internet offers free or very cheap ways for people to communicate, services such as messaging apps have become wildly popular, so if the big names aren’t up to scratch regarding security and encryption protocols, a lot of peoples’ data, messages, images, and videos could be at risk of being accessed by others.
An emphasis was placed back on messaging apps in recent months following the report that WhatsApp – the world’s most popular messaging app, owned by Facebook – was found to be vulnerable to a certain form of malware. The weakness in the app’s security could have allowed those perpetrating the cyberattacks to tap calls made within the app. When people began to label WhatsApp as not secure, experts were quick to note that it was very likely that many other apps will have similar vulnerabilities due to how apps are regularly updated. These updates may fix known defects, but can also create unknown ones which others could exploit if they know where to look. So, the question is, are any messaging apps really secure?
The need for end-to-end encryption and other protocols
While the vast majority of messaging apps deploy encryption to keep their users’ data secure, many still deploy the strategy of encryption in transit. Through this method, data is encrypted at both user ends, but when passing through the service provider, the data becomes unencrypted. The more secure method is using end-to-end encryption as, even without a service provider, data remains encrypted throughout the whole process.
A few years ago, WhatsApp started to enable end-to-end encryption, helping to make it more in line with modern online security standards. With end-to-end encryption and the fact that WhatsApp doesn’t store your messages on its server, cyber attackers shouldn’t be able to decrypt your messages and conversations. Line is another messaging app which utilises end-to-end encryption, with its optional feature ‘Letter Sealing’ being the method of switching on the encryption.
Widely considered to be the most secure messaging app, Telegram uses end-to-end encryption and focuses on high-speed communication coupled with security. Regular use of the app is very secure, with the setting ‘Secret Chats’ further bolstering its levels of privacy. Telegram is so well encrypted, in fact, that some governments have blocked it from their nations, but this can easily be overcome.
Other methods of communication offering security
While messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues, one of the most popular modern methods is to use video messaging. One of the biggest names in video messaging, which also offers other mediums of communication, is Skype. When using Skype-to-Skype communications, everything is encrypted to protect the conversation and users from malicious users and eavesdropping. However, when one end of the conversation isn’t a Skype program, that side will not be encrypted, so it’s best to talk to people on Skype via Skype.
Apple’s iCloud was at the centre of the hacking scandal from five years ago, but their video call service FaceTime has long touted its high levels of security. All FaceTime calls are fully encrypted end-to-end with 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard, making the service rather secure.
Given how apps continue to update and hackers continue to try to find the defects, it’s tough to say that any standalone messaging app, regardless of it being text or video, will ever be able to tout 100 percent security. That said, there are apps that are significantly more secure than others, so if you keep up with the regular updates put out by developers, you should be able to keep your data private and secure.