With the all-time high data breaches happening in the last five years, online privacy and security have never been more critical. In 2017, there were over 16 million victims of identity theft. The amount stolen from victims reaches up to $16.8 billion in the United States alone.
Hackers are practically lurking in every corner. Moreover, government entities are now being exposed for spying on their citizens online. It will make you wonder how safe you are when you go online.
Can someone tap into your conversations without your knowledge? If so, how can you protect yourself, your family, and your friends?
Privacy on The Internet
Every time you send a message to someone, a data packet containing that private data goes into the jungle that is the Internet. Without protection, you have no control over who can access the data packet carrying your messages, voice mails, and emails. Anyone from cyber-criminals to state agents can intercept your private data and collect personal information.
Encryption turns your plain data into a scrambled form so that it is impossible for any entities online to understand it except the target recipient. The data is then unscrambled once it reaches its destination which makes it readable again. The unscrambling process is known as decryption.
An encryption algorithm uses an encryption key to scramble the data. To decrypt the data, one needs the algorithm and the right key. Hence, only the entity that holds the key can read the data.
What is End-to-End Encryption?
End-to-end encryption, as the name implies, is a type of encryption method that protects data such that only two ends can read it: the sender and the recipient. No one else can read the data including hackers, governments, and even the server where the data passes through.
Why is end-to-end encryption important?
Consider two parties communicating via a messaging application. Typical messaging services encrypt their data but only during transit. That means, no other third-party entities can read the data while it’s traveling from the sender to the server and from the server to the recipient.
However, the data is not protected once it reaches the server. That means, the messaging service can intercept the data in their servers without the knowledge of the sender and the recipient. Moreover, they have the ability to hand the data to third parties like private companies and government entities. What’s worse is when hackers infiltrate the servers, they can easily extract the unencrypted data.
End-to-end encryption keeps the data encrypted even at the server. That means the only ones who can access the data are the sender and the recipient.
How Does End-to-End Encryption Works?
Again, consider two users on a messaging application. When the recipient runs the messaging application, it creates two encryption keys: a private key and a public key. The public key is stored in the server and is available to anyone who wants to send a message to the recipient. The private key remains on his device and is inaccessible by anyone.
When the sender wants to send a message to the recipient, his messaging application downloads the recipient’s public key from the server. Then, the encryption algorithm encrypts the message using the public key. The only way that the message can be decrypted is by using the recipient’s private key which never leaves his device.
When the encrypted message leaves the sender’s device, no one can decrypt it even in the server. Once it reaches the recipient’s device, the message is decrypted using the private key.
Best Private Messaging Apps
Fortunately, many messaging applications are implementing end-to-end encryption these past few years. In some applications, end-to-end encryption is automatically running while other apps will give you the option to do so.
Here are our top five private messaging apps:
WhatsApp is steadily becoming the top choice for private messaging. In 2016, the Facebook-owned company rolled out its end-to-end encryption for more secure communication. With more than 1.5 billion users, WhatsApp is becoming a better option for small-to-medium sized businesses to connect with their customers.
2. Rakuten Viber
This Luxembourg-based company offers chat, voice, and video communication services, all of which employ their in-house encryption algorithm. You can even identify trusted contacts which further strengthens privacy during communication. In its effort to stay transparent to its users, Rakuten Viber even released the Viber Encryption Overview which explains the security protocol implemented by the application.
In 2015, Line introduced its Letter Sealing feature which is the company’s version of end-to-end encryption. It is available across multiple devices such as Android, iOS, desktop application, and Chrome extension. Letter sealing encrypts text messages, location information, and even one-on-one free voice calls. In the future, the company is planning to expand its end-to-end encryption to its other services.
Telegram is one of the first messaging applications focusing on security and speed. Its end-to-end encryption algorithm is one of the most secure messaging platforms around. Moreover, its 200 million active users enjoy more secure communication through its Secret Chats. Messages sent through Secret Chats self-destructs in a set amount of time after the recipient has read it.
Signal was born out of Whisper Systems’ encrypted voice calling and encrypted texting applications. The messaging application employs an open-source encryption engine. Leading cyber security features like Edward Snowden and Bruce Scheier use Signal for its strong security features. WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton recently donated $50 million to support Signal Foundation’s mission “to develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication.”
Beyond using private messaging applications that employ end-to-end encryption, protect yourself from malware attacks that aim to collect your private information. Install anti-malware software like MalwareFox to protect yourself from all types of malicious attacks.