Text leaks can happen to anyone using SMS, but you can avoid it with end-to-end encryption.
At a time when our digital world can hold the keys to our success or failure, tight security around anything and everything we send out to the internet, or even through the internet, is essential. As data breaches and leaked messages make the news every week, and the headcount of victims skyrockets well into the hundreds of millions and beyond, you might start to think it’s not a matter of if you’ll get caught up in one, it’s when. We’re here to equip you to succeed, but the decision to act will always be on you.
A good place to start is with text messaging, specifically SMS (short messaging service). Sending simple texts never required much in the way of bells and whistles, so many users settled in long ago to SMS, not seeing a need for anything more in a texting service. The problem is that SMS sends your data unencrypted, so if your texts are ever compromised, they can be read right away. Also, the security protocol is weak by today’s standards. Do yourself a favor and protect your privacy by updating your cybersecurity. Say goodbye to the beloved-but-vulnerable old way of texting, and explore texting apps that use end-to-end encryption.
When a text message service uses end-to-end encryption, the information sent is encrypted from the moment the user taps SEND to the moment the other party receives it on their device. The more standard alternative to this is encryption in transit, a protocol the older messaging apps use. Encryption in transit keeps the information encrypted between the device and the service provider. If the service provider is hacked, the info can be easily accessed.
End-to-end encryption ensures that the data stays encrypted until it reaches its destination. There are some great messaging services that feature this tighter security, and we’ll list them for you here. Take a look and give one a try. We’re guessing that, like everyone, you don’t necessarily want hackers peeping in on your private messages. Switch your service to one of these to protect your privacy.
Signal — This one’s a favorite amongst the cybersecurity community (and also recommended by Ed Snowden) for several reasons. First of all, it’s very easy-to-use. Second, it’s open-source, which means if any bad elements were placed in its code, the transgression will be flagged and fixed immediately. Third, the company showed its integrity in a 2016 case when it was subpoenaed to provide all sorts of digital info on one of its customers, and it couldn’t fulfill the request. The only data the company retains is the date of account creation and date of the last time the user connected to the Signal server. The rest was private and uncollected. The app is free and works with both Android and iOS.
Cyphr — Another solid free option, Cyphr offers end-to-end encryption and works with both Android and iOS as well. The app stores a minimal amount of your metadata on its servers, but that is only for the duration of the message’s transit. Once the message has been received, the servers erase the metadata.
There are also a number of alternatives to try to see which suits you and your friends and family:
Check them out and choose one that fits your specific needs and lifestyle. Keep in mind that certain messaging services are parts of larger organizations, such as Whatsapp being owned by Facebook. While Whatsapp uses end-to-end encryption, we can’t ignore that it is attached to an enterprise that has been riddled with serious data breaches over the past couple of years. Do your homework before you settle on one.
When you find an end-to-end encryption messenger that jibes with you, start using it, and enjoy the sense of peace that comes when your mind feels as safe and secure as your texts.
Reviewing Tanya Janca's "Alice and Bob Learn Application Security", which is both a crash course in app security for newbies as well as a refresher for those that have been doing the job for a few years.
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