Mobile devices have become the inseparable part of the human lives. As the tool for communication, one of the most widely-used features of mobile devices, is certainly messaging apps.
There is no shortage of messaging apps and services to choose from. Visiting your device's respective app store, you can see that you will be greeted with an almost endless list of options. Everyone seems to be jumping into the business, simply because it is very popular.
While all of them have one common feature: messaging for communication, each and every one of them may have distinct features.
And if privacy and security are your main concerns, you should be looking for messaging apps that encrypted, or particularly, end-to-end encrypted.
Unlike email and SMS, end-to-end encryption can make sure that your messages cannot be read by anyone other than you and the person you're communicating with.
With the many messaging options out there, you're now down to just a few.
And if you want to choose between the most popular solutions out there in the market, your choice would be either to use WhatsApp, Telegram, or Signal.
WhatsApp: The Chat Giant From Facebook
WhatsApp is pretty straightforward.
The chat app originally from Jan Koum has less to no gimmick, fast, powerful, and packs only features you need the most to communicate your intentions with others.
But being owned by Facebook may make it feel like a bad choice for app with a focus on security and privacy. Everyone on the web should already know that Facebook is the social giant that lives by showing advertising. And it's eerily powerful targeting methods rely its ability to gather as much user data as possible.
Facebook is considered one of the least privacy minded company in the market. There also have been some reports that suggest Facebook to supply governments with reports and information.
For those who simply wants a simple messaging app that are somehow ubiquitous. WhatsApp should be the best among the rest. Nobody can deny that WhatsApp is by far the most popular messaging app that so many of the people you know use it.
One of WhatsApp's biggest advantages when compared to others, is that it is available for a range of platforms.
What this means, by simply installing WhatsApp and registering your phone number, your path to communicate with those in your contact list is clearly wide open. It's easy as that, with no apparent strings attached.
But for those who really care about their privacy, even WhatsApp's Signal-powered end-to-end encryption may be a turn off to them. Again, this is simply because Facebook is the one in control.
Facebook has more than plenty of times promise to keep personal data it collects away and not shared with its core social network.
Whether that statement is true or false, what is certain is that Facebook has not had a good reputation in protecting its users' privacy. One of the most notable, was the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Another thing to consider is that, WhatsApp can still collect metadata.
What this means, the phone numbers involved in the conversation, as well as the timestamp of the messages that are stored on WhatsApp/Facebook servers. Collecting metadata could give out information like who the user communicated with, the time of the communication, how often the two users communicate with each other, the location of the two users at the time of communication, and so forth.
Telegram, The App That Once Brought Russia To Its Knees
Telegram is similar to WhatsApp, as it is also a cross-platform messaging tool. It has also been made available in many platforms, and very popular.
But unlike WhatsApp that uses Signal's open-source encryption method, Telegram uses the MTProto encryption protocol. Most of users' messages are stored in Telegram's cloud servers and are encrypted on the server.
While Telegram also offers end-to-end encryption, it should be noted that Telegram is not completely open source.
What this means, you may want to question yourselves what Telegram has behind its mind. It should also be noted that Telegram has access to the encryption keys you use.
Telegram has Secret Chats, which are encrypted, and pack an extra security measure built into them. One of which, is Secret Chats messages can only be read on the device from which the messages were sent, and the device that received them.
What this means, the same user using the same account, but on a different device, won't be able to read previously written messages.
Additional security features include notification if a screenshot is taken, and more.
Another advantage of Telegram is its support for massive groups, that can consist to up to 200,000 members. There is also the option of using 'channels' which can be either public or private.
Telegram is also famous for being misused by South Korean citizen Cho Joo-bin when he created 'Nth Room' chat rooms to exploit women.
Signal, The App With Edward Snowden As Its Advocate
Just like its two close competitors, Signal is also a cross-platform encrypted messaging service.
Developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC, it uses the Signal protocol famously used by WhatsApp and some others in the industry. The protocol was developed by Trevor Perrin and Moxie Marlinspike at Open Whisper Systems, back in 2013.
The first version of the protocol, TextSecure v1, was based on Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR).
Signal assures users that no one other than the sender and the intended recipient can read the messages. And to improve security even more, it is possible to set how long messages and conversations are available for. What this means, users can create self-destructing messages that are rendered completely inaccessible after a period of their choosing.
The encryption keys are stored on users' phones and computers, never on Signal's servers.
This end-to-end encryption software is open source, meaning that there is virtually no chance for anything to creep inside the code. And it's also free.
The non-profit organization pointed out that "there are no ads, no affiliate marketers, no creepy tracking."
Group chats in Signal can include to up to virtually unlimited members. While Telegram has not specified the upper limit, it has warned that sending messages can be slower for groups with too many members.
Signal however, has links to WhatsApp as co-founder Brian Acton helped to form the Signal Foundation with the aim of promoting private messaging.
There are many choices you could choose from when it comes to messaging apps.
From the ones described above, to others that are also popular, such as Facebook Messenger, Google's messaging products, Microsoft's messaging solutions and more. But when it comes to the most popular with encryption built-in, WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal would come up on top.
Each of the three has its strengths and weaknesses, its benefits as well as drawbacks. But all of them have one thing in common: end-to-end encryption.
This method of encryption ensures that only the participating users that are communicating that can read the messages. This should prevent potential eavesdroppers – including telecommunication providers, internet service providers, and even the provider of the communication service.
End-to-end encryption uses cryptographic keys to decrypt messages. And only the sender and the intended recipient have the key.
End-to-end encryption is also intended to prevent data being read or secretly modified, other than by the true sender and recipient.
And when it comes to which of the product is best, the answer really depends on your needs (trust). Do you trust Facebook? Do you trust Russians founders? What features do you need and want to use most? There are questions that you need to answer before knowing which one to choose.
The three are regarded as the few most popular apps that utilize the most secure commercial encryption systems. But still, they are others that also offer end-to-end encryption, with some boast to even provide military-grade encryption.
While that is a question remains for you to answer, in general, most people would simply settle with either WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal as their favorite encrypted messaging app.