As technology evolves, people start using smartphones. Usage of smartphones leads to the development of several services. We are going to talk about one such service: internet messaging. In short, internet messaging is a service which offers users to send and receive messages over the internet. As you all know, the internet is a public platform, which is the point of concern these days. The real concern comes, when internet messaging services exchange messages over a public platform. How safe are the messages? How the internet messaging service companies handle the privacy and security of their customers? How should people choose the most secure messaging app? This article will answer the question “How to find the most secure messaging app?”
This post will cover the 15 key factors in this article, which would answer the question “How to find the most secure messaging app?”.
- 1. End To End Encryption:
- 2. Open Source:
- 3. Mature Code:
- 4. Metadata Policy:
- 5. Contact Verification:
- 6. Data Collection & Sharing Policy:
- 7. Content Stored:
- 8. Two Factor Or Multi-Factor Authentication:
- 9. Centralized Ecosystem Or Decentralized Platform:
- 10. Anonymous Account:
- 11. Good Jurisdiction:
- 12. Public Code Audit & Endorsement:
- 13. Self-Destructing Messages:
- 14. Forward Secrecy:
- 15. Non-Profit Or Profit Company:
- Wrap Up:
1. End To End Encryption:
Encryption is the most proved secure way to exchange information over the public platform like the internet. When we come to internet messaging apps, all they follow two types of encryption: 1. Client-Server Encryption, 2. End to End Encryption.
In the client-server encryption method, companies just encrypt the messages from the sender device to their server. They are decrypted and stored on the server then encrypt from the server to the recipient device.
In case of end to end encryption, the message gets encrypted before leaving the sender’s device and gets decrypted only upon reaching the recipient’s device. Decryption doesn’t happen at any point in the middle. The first factor is clear. Your messaging app should follow the end to end encryption method. There are some additional points to be considered while finding the best secure message app. Ask these questions to your messaging companies and get it clarified before start using the application.
- Is encryption turned on by default? The answer should be yes. Encryption shouldn’t be kept optional for the user. Messaging apps should encrypt all messages by default. It shouldn’t let the user disable encryption just by toggling settings. If the app gives it a manual option, users may make mistakes or forget to toggle it on.
- Does the app keep a private key on the device itself? Yes. Private key plays a crucial role in cryptography. A private key is the only key which gives protection at the endpoint devices. It is used to prove identity. Always make sure no buddy has access to the private key. It should be on the end devices. Neither ISP nor messaging service company should have access to the private key. If they have, then they can decrypt messages anytime they want.
- Can messages be read by the company? No. Why should you allow the company to read your private messages?
- The best Cryptographic primitives: Make sure your app uses the best encryption and hash algorithms to strengthen the encryption. At least AES 256 or equivalent encryption algorithm, RSA 2048 or equivalent, SHA-256 or equivalent hash algorithms.
2. Open Source:
Many messaging companies promise that they are fully compliant. How can you trust their words blindly? Until the companies hide their source code, you can’t validate what they do with your data. We recommend going for the apps which have published their source code on the internet. It’s not the matte of license. But, it’s a matter of trust.
3. Mature Code:
This factor talks about the integrity of the application. As long as the company is in the market, it earns trust. This may not be true in all the cases but most. This factor proves their experience in a particular landscape. Ask yourselves a question, which app you trust the more? The app launched a few days ago or been around for years.
4. Metadata Policy:
What is metadata? There are two types of content. The actual content and information about the content. In simplistic terms, metadata is just called “data about the data“. I can reveal much information about you, and it let the messaging companies learn about you, for example. The company may not know what conversation you had with your wife. But, it knows you spoke to you wife, how long you spoke, from what time to what time you spoke, how many times you speak to your wife, from which location you speak to your wife more? Your messaging company can learn about you beyond your imaginations. Now, you may ask what else the companies can gather? Here are some metadata information being collected by the top companies.
What Data WhatsApp Collects From Its Users?
|Device ID||Coarse Location||Product Interaction||Crash Data|
|User ID||Phone Number||Other Diagnostic Data||Performance Data|
|Advertising Data||Email Address||Payment Info||Product Interaction|
|Purchase History||Contacts||Customer Support||Other User Content|
What Data Facebook Messenger Collects From ts Users?
|Purchase History||Photos or Videos||Crash Data||Customer Support|
|Other Financial Info||Gameplay Content||Performance Data||Sensitive Info|
|Precise Location||Other User Content||Other Diagnostic Data||iMessage|
|Coarse Location||Search History||Other Data Types|
|Physical Address||Browsing History||Browsing History|
|Email Address||User ID||Health|
|Phone Number||Product Interaction||Payment Info|
|Other User Contact Info||Advertising Data||Photos or Videos|
|Contacts||Other Usage Data||Audio Data|
What Data Telegram Collects From Its Users?
- Contact Info
- User ID
What Signal Collects From Its Users?
- Phone number
5. Contact Verification:
Two things it actually validates. Identify of the other side person and channel encryption. Firstly, this feature of messaging apps helps to validate the person on the other side is the verified user of the application. Secondly, it confirms the communication channel between you and other side person is encrypted, secured, and private. This you can verify by finding answers to these two question.
- Can you manually verify contacts’ fingerprints? Contact verification should be a default feature for an ideal messaging app. It’s good to have his feature to manually verify the contacts if the user wants.
- The app will send a notification if a contact’s fingerprint changes? Yes. The app should be shipped with this feature. This lets the users know whenever there are breaches or violations occurred.
6. Data Collection & Sharing Policy:
The next important factor is what data the app collects and shares with others. The most secured app never collects or shares any user data with others. If any app is doing this, then you may leave the app. In the metadata policy section, we have told what types of data messaging companies are being collected from their users. In this section, we focus more on the data storage and sharing policy. Some companies climes that they don’t store the collected data on their servers. Some companies climes they don’t collect the data itself. It’s good that they don’t. What if they said they collect the user’s data. There are some questions we have listed here to check with your messaging service company.
- Does your messaging company collect customers’ data?
- Does your messaging app collect customers’ data?
- Collected user’ data sent to the parent company and/or third parties?
- Does the company log timestamps/IP addresses?
- What surveillance policies the company has on its users?
- Where the company stores the collected users’ data?
- What is the company’s general stance on customers’ privacy?
7. Content Stored:
When we say content, we are talking about the user-created content: A test, image, video files, and any other media which users exchange with other users on the messaging apps. It’s not the data collected by the companies from the user contents. A privacy-oriented company never stores the user’s created data on their servers. Users data should be in their own devices. The best companies say they don’t collect any user content and delete all the content when it no longer necessary. Please check the application owners that are they going to store your content even in encrypted form. Are they say yes to you then believe that they will put your content in risk because any content stored on central servers could be stolen anytime by hackers.
8. Two Factor Or Multi-Factor Authentication:
This plays a vital role in authenticating your messaging app. Most of the messaging apps support multiple client applications. Apps let their users set up and access from different devices to increase the user experience. But, users may face unauthorized access issues if they improperly handle those messaging apps. Two-factor authentication is the best countermeasure to overcome unauthorized access attacks. This feature challenges users to prove their identity by supplying tow or more identity factors to login in the app. Security experts say this feature adds another layer of security for the applications. Which is a good thing, isn’t it?
9. Centralized Ecosystem Or Decentralized Platform:
Both are good and bad in their way. If the application is built to work on a decentralized platform like peer to peer network, there is no central server to compromise and no central point of failure. On the other hand, if your application has a centralized ecosystem, then you may need to trust their servers with your metadata. It’s controversial to say which is better. Until your app is offering end to end encryption, anything is fine.
10. Anonymous Account:
It’s not important for all except a few people. Suppose you are a journalist, working in a spy company, or working for a government-sponsored secret organization where you want to communicate with others without exposing your real identity. In that case, you may find applications which offer anonymous accounts. In most cases, it doesn’t satisfy the common people requirement. You can leave this option as optional.
11. Good Jurisdiction:
It’s essential to consider the app comes under which jurisdiction. This let the uses to know where the company is registered? From which country they run the business? In which part of the word, the company hosted its data centres and stored the data. In general suggestions, we recommend the people to avoid the jurisdiction of Five Eye Alliance as those countries may force your application companies to share some amount of your data to them.
12. Public Code Audit & Endorsement:
On top of being an open-source application and publish the source code on the public platform, periodic public code audit and endorsement policy of the company justifies their loyalty to their users. What else you expect from your app developers? This type of companies is considered as the most trustworthiness. Ask your application developers these two question to ensure how serious they are about this.
Have there been a recent code audit and an independent security analysis?
Does the company provide a transparency report?
13. Self-Destructing Messages:
This is one of the adorable features if your app supports it. It’s always subjective. Some people may find it is useful. Some may not. This feature is not for those who love to keep all the messages intact. This feature is for those who want to share confidential information with their peers that they don’t want to be lingering in their chat histories. This option let the users share the message only for a short period. Signal messaging app offers powerful flexibility for their users, letting their users set the message destruction time from 5 seconds to 1 week. After the defined time the message will be deleted on all sender and recipients.
14. Forward Secrecy:
According to forwardsecrecy.com “The concept of Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) is the property that ensures that a session key derived from a set of long-term public and private keys will not be compromised if one of the (long-term) private keys is compromised in the future“. The app with this feature provides greater security in terms of encryption.
15. Non-Profit Or Profit Company:
At last, if your app is a public company, then find out what is their vision, mission, sponsors, how they earn money? Some companies are running on non-profit models. Such companies rely on public funds and donations. However, not all non-profit organizations depend upon donations and public funds. Some non-profit companies are getting funds from advertising companies. Don’t trust such non-profit companies. Some companies offer premium service for little extra charges. That’s all right as long as they are loyal to their companies.
After compiling the list of factors, we can say that you may not see such a perfect app which satisfy all the factors. We suggest you consider all these factors and run across over your choice of messaging apps. Try to find out which app would meet most of the factors that give a try. This is how you can find the most secure messaging app.
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