The Electronics Frontier Foundation (EFF), recognised as a premier digital rights group, is of the opinion that all messaging apps do not offer the same amount of security against bigger intrusions. They have created internal criteria’s which helps them give ratings to messaging apps. These criteria’s include questions such as “Is the code open to independent review?” or “Are past comms secure if your keys are stolen?”
Only a handful of all messaging applications passed the rigorous criteria set by EFF. To our utter surprise, popular apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and Viber, didn’t even make the cut.
However, where security is concerned, it is not only the EFF criteria that users should be worried about. More importantly, what options do messaging apps offer that allow the user to control their content for their own personal privacy? We have listed what we believe are the Top 5 messaging apps that are designed to keep you in control of your content and protect you from having your messages abused.
As far as secure communication is concerned, n-gage has by far got everything correct. Aptly put by Mr Ajit Patel, founder and CEO of N-gage, the app considers end to end encryption as the price of entry into a packed marketplace. The n-gage messenger interface is user friendly and has been designed to make sure that private communications remain private. The app lets users send password protected messages and files thereby making it totally safe from any outside threat. n-gage is packed with features that are not even heard of and are definitely way ahead of all the popular messengers in the market.
n-gage lets you schedule the delivery of the messages as well as self-destruct any message once it has been read if you so wish. It offers its users a Secret Area where you can store all your media files which only you can access since it is password protected. There are hardly any other apps in the market which come close to these kinds of revolutionary and out of the box features.
n-gage is the only one of our top 5 that understands the real privacy threat is that when you send a message, you have little control over how that message is used (or abused) by the receiver. n-gage offers unrivalled controls for stopping people taking screenshots and you can even stop copying or forwarding of the messages you send.
If required, n-gage has a host of more powerful privacy features including the ability to extract any message at any time from the other person’s device and if you lose your phone then you can easily burn all of the data from the n-gage website.
n-gage also allows users to ‘Scramble’ their chats to avoid people reading their messages over their shoulder, a must have in today’s packed commuter trains.
If you want a completely secret messenger and are on Android then n-gage can even become invisible on your home screen and you access it by putting a passcode into your phones dialler instead.
Of course, the platform is not just about security, you can still send rich messages to your friends including stickers and even greeting cards! n-gage supports more than 300 people in a single group and video calls for up to 10 people!
Telegram is a classic example of, “Any publicity is good publicity”. Recently it became the centre of attraction when it was found out that ISIS (a terror organisation) has been using Telegram since it ensures secure messaging to its customers. It is no secret that NSA has been keeping a close watch on almost all the communication lines. This has led to the rise of new genre of messaging apps, the ones which take encryption and security of its customer’s data, very seriously. Telegram is one such application.
This cross platform application boasts of the fastest IM network due to its account structure which is decentralised in nature. Its data centers are spread across the globe; this makes the routing process even faster. The authorities face a tough time to keep a track of data since the servers are omnipresent. The makers have also used end to end encryption which makes the security even tighter. There is no trace on the servers and it also has the feature of self destructing the message after a specific time. All this can be controlled by the mobile device which means nobody can ever find the messages that have been sent.
These features connect well with people who yearn for privacy across online platforms. The beauty of the whole app is that the messages are not really lost, they are only stored in an encrypted format on the cloud, just in case you need to read them in the future. You can send messages of any length and forward media files up to 1GB in size. You can create a group and add up to 100 people which mean many people can simultaneously connect with each other.
If you are looking for a User Interface which is neat and easy to use, then Threema would be a very good choice. It not only has end to end encryption, but it also acts as a social network. All the messages and group chat sessions are secure and safe on Threema.
The app has a feature for secret polling groups and one can send voice messages and texts on the secure platform without any fear. You can also check the contacts with the help of their QR code. To add to all these, the common features such as sharing files and media are also present.
Wickr: Top-Secret Messenger
Wickr is a result of lengthy Def Con sessions. Nico Sell, an activist hacker, is the creator of Wickr. The whole idea behind Wickr is to provide whistleblowers a platform where they can safely raise their concerns without the government being able to track them.
The encryption is the kind which is generally used in the military, this means even Wickr doesn’t have the details about the account holder. The credibility of the app can be determined by the fact that Australian politicians are using this app for communication purposes.
The app allows self destruction of messages and files. You can also set the time line for self destruction of messages. The interface is neat, fast and very user friendly. The highlight of the app is the pace at which the setup takes place which is way better than popular apps such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and Facebook messenger. These features make it a very worthy contender to replace any of the popular messaging apps which are running on your phone today.
Sometimes, ratings are not everything. ChatSecure’s EFF score is pretty high, but it doesn’t manage to score any brownie points when it comes to user interface. This is the reason why it is languishing at the bottom of our list despite scoring a perfect 7 on the EFF scorecard.
The app is open source and has an OTR encryption against XMPP which is much more popular. It enables you to access your Facebook account securely at the same time create new ones on other XMPP servers. If you crave for even more privacy, it also lets you make your own server.
It has the ability to adjust with Jitsi, Adium and other such platforms who use OTR or XMPP. All this is a bit complex for the common man and this is where it lags behind in our list. As far as security is concerned, ChatSecure is definitely one of the best in the world.
The most common iMessage which comes with your iPhone also boasts of end to end encryption. This is perhaps the reason why FBI and NSA have been pointing fingers at Apple since Apple doesn’t hand over the chat sessions to them.
The other side of the story is that Apple cannot provide the data since it is encrypted for them as well. This means the two organisations have reached a point of impasse and there is nothing either one can do about it. There are conversations that have been stored on iCloud but then they are encrypted as well. This is blessing in disguise and no matter how many times the authorities keep trying, they are simply not going to succeed.
The downside is that even you cannot check the encryption keys sent by Apple which is basically due to the structure of Apple. It is difficult to tell how many people actually go ahead and check their encryption keys but one thing is for certain that the backdoor entry that the Authorities have been vying for, seems impossible as of now.