There were many options for instant messaging when I first began using the Internet nearly 20 years ago. All of them, from MSN Messenger to Yahoo Messenger and ICQ were used by me.
They were also not secure. Chat platforms and governments could easily listen in on your conversations. Edward Snowden helped us to see just how much privacy we have online.
It has been a long time since that there have been huge advancements in making it harder for others to listen in on conversations. One of these is the Signal smartphone and desktop app, which are both highly encrypted. It was created by the charmingly-named Marlinspike.
Below, I will describe the Signal security features and show you how to activate them. Although I am using an iPhone, the following applies equally to Android phones.
You can also check out my other posts about this topic: Is your Messaging App Really Secure? The Best Encrypted Messenger Apps discusses a few other secure messaging apps that you could use.
Strong End-to-End Encryption and No User Records
Signal’s app chain has one flaw. To use it, you must register a valid number. Signal won’t offer 100% anonymity until they find a way to get around this.
This is balanced by very strong encryption at the end of every connection and no user records. Signal does not store logs of calls except for the last time you signed onto the service. Your phone number may reveal that you are a Signal user, but no one will know who or what you are talking.
Create a PIN on the Screen Lock to Signal Itself
A screen lock PIN is required for any mobile phone. This is a standard feature. You can add an extra screen lock pin to Signal to increase security. Touch ID can also be used to open Signal, but this would not be recommended.
Go to Settings-> privacy to add a screen lock pin to Signal. Scroll down to “Screen Lock” then move the toggle until it is on.
The screen lock will be timed out if you are not sure. I recommend selecting ” Instant“.
Block Messages from Appearing on Your Lock Screen
Signal should be turned off so that messages from strangers don’t appear on your lock screen. This kind of gives away the game, doesn’t?
Instead of seeing the entire message, you can tailor notifications to show only the sender’s name (which frankly is still too much information) or only ” New Content“.
After you have logged in, navigate to Notifications then ” Information Content“.
Decide which one you prefer.
Be Sure To Talk To The Right Person
End-to-end encryption makes it very unlikely that an “man-in the-middle attack” will occur. This happens when an intruder enters the conversation of two people and intercepts their messages.
However, nothing can be guaranteed in life other than death and taxes. You should take extra steps to make sure that you’re speaking to the right person.
There are two methods of verification. There are two verification methods: one for voice calls, and one for text chats.
Once the call has been connected to the voice line, a two-word verification phrase will appear on the screen. This is visible on both sides’ screens.
One person speaks the first word, and the other person the second (example). Anybody trying to enter the conversation and impersonate a caller will not be able to identify the phrase because they won’t have it on their phones.
It’s more complicated for text chats but you only need to do it once (or until they register another device with Signal).
Signal trusts the identity key of the person you are sending a message to as it is from them. It’s easy to double-check someone’s credentials.
Simply tap their name at top of chat screen.
Now, tap “View Safety number”.
The QR code and identity key will then be presented to you. Signal will approve the QR code if the person is present physically. You can also ask the person to send you the ID key via text chat.
Once it is confirmed, click the “Mark as Verified”.
Last but not least, any criminal will tell anyone that if they don’t want you to be caught, they need to get rid all evidence.
If you’re a whistleblower, this means you don’t want to leave any evidence of your conversations on Signal, in case someone gained access.
Although you can delete messages, it is easy to forget. Signal’s “Disappearing messages” feature is so cool.
This is where you can send a message from Signal to one of your contacts. Once the message is read, it is removed from your device and theirs. There is no way to retrieve it.
Tap on the contact’s name in the chat window to enable “Disappearing messages”.
Scroll down to “Disappearing messages” and toggle it on. Below that you’ll see a slider to set the time when messages should be deleted. You can make it yours, but you must give the recipient enough time to read the message.
When you send a message, an indicator will show on the screen that a timer is showing. It will count down until the message disappears.
Signal has many other great features that make it a secure app. For example, Signal can prevent someone from deregistering your phone number and relay your voice calls through Signal’s servers in order to hide your IP address.
These are just a few of the reasons why WhatsApp should be abandoned in favor of Moxie’s alternative.