Last month, I advised Facebook Messenger users to switch to its stable WhatsApp. The security differences between the two are night and day ̵1; and you really do not want to use anything but a fully secured messenger these days. For the same reason, I have also advised users of any SMS – including iMessage and Google Messages – to avoid SMS wherever possible.
The obvious alternative, again, is WhatsApp. The world’s leading messenger is end-to-end coded with lots of new features along the way. I easily recommended it as an alternative for messengers that are not end-to-end encrypted, by default. But WhatsApp is owned by Facebook – that’s its downside. Many WhatsApp users do not trust Facebook to secure their data and keep this platform free of ads and monetization.
If you are among the 2 billion WhatsApp users but want to change, to leave Facebook, you are in luck. Recent months have leveled the playing field in terms of usability, and several other platforms are providing new users so fast that it makes it less unusual to make a switch. There are many, many possibilities, but in my opinion, only two of which you have to choose from. They have their differences, but they both hit the mark.
The first alternative – and in my opinion the best – is Signal. WhatsApp security is actually built around Signal Protocol. Yes, that’s right, WhatsApp implemented an open source technology version of a competitor. The signal has been a somewhat painful compromise between security and usability. At every step, the app ensured that it never compromised the security of your messages to make the user experience more rewarding. The signal was a bit awkward – the UI was not entirely correct, and until recently iPhone users could not transfer their history when purchasing a new device.
There are still compromises. A range of security settings that make the app seem much more complex to a casual user than WhatsApp. However, these are hidden. You can work with standards. There is also no cloud backup. This is not guaranteed to be safe and so is not an option. When switching to a new Android or iPhone device, Signal has different methods to restore your messages. At no point does it allow your data to get into the clutches of Apple or Google cloud.
This means two things: first, there is no way your data can be compromised anywhere but on your phone. A little known weakness in WhatsApp security is that the default backup option is for the cloud (Apple or Google), without WhatsApp end-to-end encryption protection. According to Cyjax CISO Ian Thornton-Trump, whatever message you use, “security wise, do not store anything in iCloud.”
But it also means that if you lose your iPhone, you lose messages. Android users will need to have copied a local backup file for offline storage and kept the 30-digit password safe somewhere to restore a new installation. This is not the smooth WhatsApp experience. As I said, there are no security compromises.
All that said, Signal usability is now excellent. Its many connected devices work like a charm – WhatsApp can learn from the Signal user experience here. You can find desktops (Windows, Mac and Linux) as well as iPad apps. There are still not many Android tablets or smartphones. You will not receive the message history when you activate a new connected device, but as soon as you open the connection, it receives all new messages. Seamles is seamless and significantly better than the clumsy desktop WhatsApp app.
If you change, you will not be alone. Signal installations are increasing now. This makes a point of not catching metadata, there is no way to respond to data law enforcement requests, and this came to the fore during recent protests. Despite lawmakers’ barriers to encrypted messages, EU Commission staff were told earlier this year to switch from WhatsApp to Signal, precisely because it was seen as safer and risked no corporate compromise. Enough said.
The signal offers a WhatsApp-like experience without the Facebook spectrum hiding behind it. But – and it is a large number but, the number of users remains small. Several tens of millions, not hundreds of millions, not even billions. And so you will need to use WhatsApp in parallel after convincing your contacts to make the switch.
The other WhatsApp alternative is the much more popular Telegram, with a fast-growing installation base of around 400 million users. The telegram is the pirate of the messaging world. Founded in Russia, it is now said to be headquartered in Dubai, though it remains embedded in the locations of its engineers and management.
The great weakness of Telegram is that it is not hidden from end to end, although there is a possibility of “secret” face-to-face conversation. Telegram has a server-based architecture, encrypting between end devices and servers using its own security protocol. He says it is different from WhatsApp because it enables access to many platforms and devices.
Secret conversations, which They are end-to-end encoders are limited to a single device on each side. Telegram has even better multi-platform capabilities than Signal, but these are not built to work with end-to-end encryption in the same way as Signal did.
ESET internet security guru Jake Moore warns users to consider this change. “All Signal conversations are naturally encrypted from end to end,” he says, “which to me is essential. I would not have used a communication platform if it had not been decided to promote privacy. Secret conversations are available. on Telegram on request, but I think any message should predetermine end-to-end encryption these days without question. “
Telegram does not have the same transparent security as Signal, its server-based architecture, and lack of end-to-end encryption presents the potential for data compromise. But the platform boasts of content retention by the authorities and until Signal’s recent rise, it was the choice of sending protesters all over the world.
Where Telegram is different from other messengers is its options for groups and channels. Groups can have up to 200,000 members, while channels can have an unlimited number of subscribers. If you immediately assume that this presents opportunities for broadcasting in protest and dissident groups, or perhaps secretly inciting radical or malicious messages, then this is exactly the claims that are made.
The telegram has its roots in Russia, and was created to facilitate protected communications between citizens without fear of compromise by the authorities. Even so, there have been issues with vulnerability potential to enable security agencies to monitor such groups, capture content or even identify members, but Telegram is working quickly to fix these.
Two very different options. If you are a daily WhatsApp user and want a non-Facebook solution, then my tips would be to choose Signal. But Telegram has an extremely loyal and rapidly evolving user base. It is independent and has built its platform around the security of its users. It remains the most popular choice for messages within authoritarian regimes. It is a viable alternative, albeit a very different one.
According to Moore, “messaging apps commonly used like WhatsApp are popular because users can usually assume that their contact will also use it as their number one choice – Signal and Telegram are underrated because people still do not tend to rate their privacy and data security as convenient as convenience. ”
The irony with WhatsApp is that Facebook has become the world’s largest advocate for secure messaging, defending it against U.S. lawmakers who want to introduce backgrounds to allow investigators access to user content. At the same time, Facebook has spent the last two years defending its proper record for user privacy and data security. It is not surprising that when I recommend WhatsApp, a Facebook platform, it gets a lot of responses from readers telling me why this does not work for them.
“WhatsApp is okay, as long as you’re not discussing sensitive information,” warns security adviser Sean Wright, echoed by his colleague Mike Thompson, who says that “if your risk profile is small, do not “It’s very important. If you are sharing state secrets, do not use WhatsApp.”
“The only way these security-conscious applications would beat their competitors,” says Moore, “would be if the general public would start to leave behind the data security movement and make a point. Only when you can assume that all your contacts have the app will it become the norm for everyday users.Before this happens, I fear that Signal and Telegram will remain an underground messaging platform used only by professionals security and those who care about their data. “
Whichever way you go – Alert, Telegram or adhere to WhatsApp, you can be sure that your messages are safe and secure. The main tips here are to stay away from unencrypted messengers. No matter how trivial you think the conversation may be, it is always better to make sure you know who can read them.