In the age of smartphones, everyone wants to use a messaging app that guarantees superior security and privacy at the same time.
In this regard, you have a few options in the market, however, the limitations with many chat apps is that they don’t allow cross-app communications, which means that your choice for the most secure and/or encrypted app will also be affected by what your friends are using.
As a result of these limitations, you have two options to pick from – WhatsApp and Signal. These two are easily the most popular options available and they also tick the most “secure, encrypted apps” box, but how do they compare? Let’s take a closer look.
There’s no doubt that WhatsApp is the most popular app between these two, however, you’ve probably heard about Signal on numerous occasions than the Facebook-owned app, especially when matters of encryption are on the table. Whenever a topic of security comes around, it hardly passes by without the mention of Signal. This is because the app is equipped with an end-to-end encryption protocol that protects all messages passing through it.
With this security measure, it means that no one apart from the two people involved in the chat can intercept the contents of the messages. Even if they managed to get hold of the messages, they would only be able to see a scrambled message with characters that can’t be understood. The best part of Signal is not even the end-to-end encryption, rather, it’s the app’s open-ended nature. Being an open-source app makes it easy to audit, peer-review and update from a security point of view, thus making it the most reliable app as far as security of your messages is concerned.
Interestingly, WhatsApp had to seek the help a company that is behind Signal, Open Whisper Systems, in order to employ end-to-end encryption to its messages. This shows you just how good Signal from a security standpoint that WhatsApp had to seek for something similar to what it offers its users. This means that the Facebook-owned app also uses the same end-to-end encryption technology as Signal, however, the first major difference between the two is that where the former markets itself as a messaging app, the latter calls itself a security app.
Also, WhatsApp is not open-source, but the Signal protocol it uses is open-ended, just like Signal. In short, you can’t tell what goes on behind the scenes on the Facebook-owned app.
The data collected by WhatsApp and Signal varies
It gets even worse knowing that WhatsApp shares some data with its parent company, Facebook. Furthermore, the chat app has a default setting that backs up your messages and other data to your phone’s cloud storage, be it Google Drive or iCloud. With this kind of thing, it means that sharing of your data with third parties, even if its accidental, is likely to happen. Of course, you can easily opt out of this data backup feature, but sadly, not so many WhatsApp users have an idea that this usually happens.
WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption sometime last year, which means that anyone using an older version of the app doesn’t have the feature activated by default. There’s always that one guy who never updates their apps. If this person is in your conversation list, well, sorry mate, because your chats with this person won’t be end-to-end encrypted.
In short, both WhatsApp and Signal are secure apps, but the latter offers better privacy than the former. So, if you are looking for an app that is secure and privacy-friendly, Signal is your best bet, but if you are after an app that is secure and is full of features – features that might at some point turn sour – WhatsApp is what you are looking for. Both apps are free to download and install.