Thanks to the easy and speedy communication they offer, it’s no wonder that messaging apps are so widely used. Every smartphone owner uses at least one type of messaging app, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. However, they’re probably unaware of the risks attached to communicating with these apps. This is because all messaging apps come with some inherent risks that make them vulnerable to external attacks. Failure to use effective encryption exposes the data that is stored or shared between these mobile apps to the risk of being stolen by any one of many people or other organizations or agencies looking to spy on them.
A while ago, Amnesty International made the discovery that some of the apps that are popularly used may not be as secure as most people like to imagine. The level of encryption and security varies from one messaging app to another, and the differences in the security of certain apps are phenomenal.
The Importance of Encryption When Using Messaging Apps
The amount of data that is transferred between users of messaging apps is massive, without even taking into account the fact that they access any data stored from users and messages. For instance, some of the information that a typical messaging app might have access to in your device includes your email, physical address, contacts, and online banking details among others. Furthermore, remember that in the absence of adequate encryption, any third-party individual or organization (including snoopy law enforcement agencies or criminal hackers) can easily access this data. Once they obtain access, the damage they can inflict is unspeakable.
In simple terms, there is a plethora of online security threats associated with transferring your private information using apps that are not adequately secured. This raises the question: can your favorite messaging app be trusted? The answer to that question will likely surprise you. In this article, we look into the most widely used messaging apps and examine the level of encryption that they offer to users.
WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app globally, seeing as it has more than 1 billion users. To be fair, as far as security is concerned, WhatsApp is among the least and the most transparent. The app rolled out end-to-end encryption in 2016. This technology made sure that all user data is safe even if a security breach occurs. In fact, WhatsApp is the only messaging app that gives users a clear warning when end-to-end encryption has not been used for a given chat. Thus, it ensures that you, as a user, are always aware of the level of security that you’re currently enjoying.
2. Facebook Messenger
The interesting thing to note about Facebook Messenger is that even though the app offers end-to-end encryption, the feature is not automatically enabled. This is not the case with WhatsApp, a messaging app that is under the same parent company, Facebook. Therefore, even though the benefits of top-level security are available to you, the benefits are not enjoyed unless you opt into the technology. To make matters worse, the Messenger app does not let users know that they have such a feature.
3. FaceTime and iMessage on iOS
These apps use end-to-end encryption but do not inform users about the feature. The number of people using these apps is growing. It is as highly secured as WhatsApp but only offers this level of security between Apple devices. In other words, messages sent to non-iOS devices will not be covered by the same encryption. Furthermore, Apple has long been known for not having any backdoors to its encryption.
In addition to instant messaging, Skype also serves as a tool for video and voice messaging, which is why it is among the most popular apps. Unfortunately, the security offered by this app is not top level. In fact, its security is among the weakest. Therefore, Skype is among the riskiest messaging apps. With 300 million or so active users, Skype has borne the brunt of government surveillance globally.
Ensure Your Device Is Protected Using a VPN
Having noted the risk posed by each of the above messaging apps, the question that emerges is: how do you protect yourself while using the apps? The answer lies in VPN technology. A Virtual Private Networks (VPN) adds a layer to your online security and privacy by encrypting your online traffic. As a result, no third party organization or individual can monitor your browsing activity on your smartphone, especially when it comes to messaging apps. There are several VPN services that offer solutions tailored to mobile users. Unfortunately, there are even more poor-quality VPN services on the market that not only offer inadequate protection but actually increase the risk that users are exposed to. It is for this reason that you need to go for well-established VPN providers.
Usie Powerful Antivirus Software
Most people know the importance of having a good antivirus on their computer, but the security of mobile devices is often overlooked. This is possibly because there’s not as much awareness about the threats that lurk in the mobile dimension, more so when it comes to messaging apps.
Numerous antivirus software is available for Android and Apple, all of which come with some form of encryption. As is the case with many online services, you’re better off using premium VPN and antivirus software. You get what you pay for, after all.