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Shoot the Messenger: How Chat Apps Are Security Hellholes

There are dozens of texting options available. Here are several options with different capabilities. Unfortunately, many of the apps (or their parent companies) can be used for terrible evil.
 
By
Stever Robbins,
Episode #528
image of chat apps like whatsapp and facebook messenger

2. Apple Messages

Apple Messages arose as a way to send messages that avoided SMS charges. Messages get sent over the internet, not the phone network. Apple users can send each other messages that travel over the data network. Apple users can text non-Apple users and it gets sent as a regular SMS message instead. 

Messages between Apple users are encrypted from end-to-end. They’re stored on Apple’s servers in a way that even Apple can’t decrypt them. Messages sent via SMS are sent unencrypted and get seen by a phone company. 

3. Skype

Skype was created in Sweden as a secure platform for private videoconferencing and chat. It was purchased by Microsoft, who consolidated the data centers within the US and gave intelligence agencies unfettered access to all Skype servers.

In 2018, they doubled down on anti-privacy and anti-security by giving Skype “social” features. Now, anyone can figure out who you’ve been Skyping with and who’s in your address book. If you want to delete your account so someone can’t do that, they enforce a 60-day period before deleting the data, probably to alert the NSA to take one last look.

Skype is popular, but don’t expect discretion or secrecy. And if you’re a lawyer who wants your client list kept private, don’t expect that either.

4. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular messaging platforms. It’s owned by Facebook, but they promised to keep it private and secure. They promise a lot of things. And the penalty for breaking those promises is...nothing.

Indeed, when Whatsapp founder Brian Acton left Facebook, he declared in interviews that Facebook was pushing to compromise WhatsApps’ privacy. But of course they say you can trust them, so I’m sure it’s true.

5. Signal

Which brings us to Signal. Signal was created by security fanatic Moxie Marlinspike, and is now funded by the very same Brian Acton. It’s encrypted end-to-end. They have centralized servers for routing data and connecting you with contacts, but voice and video conversations go directly between the two people communicating. 

Signal is constantly working on ways provide secure, private communication with their own servers being involved in the process as little as possible. It’s also 100% open source, so its integrity can be externally verified. 

Signal is my platform of choice.

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