When it comes to privacy and security issues, messaging apps don’t get enough attention. While an increasing number of people are concerned about social media platforms like Facebook abusing their personal data, not many realize that messaging apps are just as much of a liability. Group chats are especially susceptible to being compromised. How do you know if the photos, videos, text and voice messages you share with your friends, family or work colleagues are 100% safe? We’ve rounded up a few telltale signs to look out for, and outlined what a secure messaging service should look like.
Is WhatsApp a secure messaging app?
Let’s take a look at WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in the world, with 1.5 billion users in 180 countries. The messaging service – acquired by Facebook in 2014 – introduced end-to-end encryption as a security measure in 2016, promising users that their data would be protected against intruders and would never fall into the wrong hands, even if their servers were compromised. In a nutshell, end-to-end encryption means that the sender and the recipient are the only ones who have access to the content being shared: all messages are secured with a cryptographic lock, to which only the recipient has the keys.
However, WhatsApp has come under some scrutiny because of flaws in its system that could potentially give way to eavesdropping, especially in the case of group chats. Recently, German researchers found that if the app’s servers were to be hacked, intruders could add new members to multi-person “private” group conversations, without the group’s administrator having to approve the action. This way, the confidentiality of the group would be breached and end-to-end encryption would lose all significance.
Another issue has to do with storing messages. WhatsApp does not store any messages, but it does give users the option to do a backup, which can become a cause for concern. While iCloud backups are encrypted, messages sent by Android users and backed up on Google Drive are not. This is a minor flaw because backups can be turned off, but it’s important to remember that if they are not, your messages could easily end up in the hands of data miners, governments, or even Google, the company providing the backup service.
End-to-end encryption also does not mean that no data collection occurs when you’re using a messaging app like WhatsApp. Certain pieces of information about you, called metadata, can still be collected. This includes names from your contact list, the length and time of your calls, the device you use, your IP address, your phone number, and more.
Data collection and data sharing is a major security risk that one should take into account when using applications like WhatsApp. Factoring in the news of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to integrate the social network’s messaging services (their underlying technical infrastructure will be unified), the autonomy of WhatsApp could be in danger. WhatsApp has been open about sharing some of your data with Facebook in order to provide better friend suggestions and targeted ads, but who knows what the next step will be as the services of the Facebook family become more and more integrated?
What a secure group chat should look like
As we’ve seen with the example of WhatsApp, end-to-end encryption is not the be-all and end-all. Questions like server protection, the security of backups and data collection also have to be taken into account when choosing a secure messaging service.
A secure messaging service should:
– use end-to-end encryption
– not allow backups for your messages (unless they are encrypted)
– not allow any form of data collection (including metadata) or data sharing
It is clear that Whatsapp ticks off some of the requirements, but not all.
So how do you find a secure messaging app?
The monetization strategy of the company that owns the messaging app you’re using should be a good indication of how reliable and safe the app is. The Facebook family relies heavily on advertisement and data collection, so it’s easy to see why it would be in their best interest to share your data between their different properties and possibly also with third parties.
Alternatives to group chats in messaging apps
There are several different companies that offer safe alternatives to group chats in messaging apps. Each focuses on a different aspect of messaging, but what they all have in common is that they offer a more secure service than mainstream applications. The most well-known secure messaging apps are Signal and Wicker, but there are other lesser-known platforms that offer a lot more than just secure messaging for those who want to fully enjoy private group chats.
Idka is a private platform specifically designed for groups – friends, families, coworkers, support groups, clubs – that gives you control over what you share and does not let any of your sensitive information slip out of your hands. It is tailored to provide groups and communities with a safe place to share content.
The Idka chat can be used as a safe alternative to less-secure messaging apps. You can start private conversations, group chats and even video calls. The Idka platform complies with all the requirements of a safe messaging service mentioned above. Idka uses end-to-end encryption, does not allow unencrypted backups for your content and does not collect or share your data with third parties. What is more, on Idka, you can delete anything you no longer wish to have stored. It will then disappear from the Idka servers forever.
Since the platform is completely ad-free, it does not require your data for monetization. How is Idka able to do this? The answer is simple: it is a paid service based on a freemium model. Subscriptions start as low as €1 per user per month. This revenue means Idka does not have to capitalize on user data.
One of the most useful features of Idka is the group function. Users can choose between three different group settings – open, closed, and hidden – with different levels of searchability and restrictions on who can join. Depending on what settings you choose, your groups will either appear in searches on Idka or be completely hidden. They will either be open for anyone to join or require an invitation for new members. These options are especially useful for groups who want to share and store classified information (e.g. the internal affairs of a company), express their honest opinions about sensitive subjects (e.g. political issues) or communicate safely privately (e.g. support groups). The private group settings allow users to express themselves freely, in a safe space, without fear of anyone unwanted eyes.
To make sharing more efficient, users can organize contacts into “circles” – based on sets or categories such as family, close friends, club members, acquaintances, etc. – and share content with whomever they choose.
The Idka experience also offers a special perk that no messaging apps offer: it comes with a large cloud storage space – up to 2GB free for a basic account – where you can safely upload, store and share your content. When you create an account, you automatically have access to your own secure cloud storage – you do not need to connect to any third-party storage services. Best of all, you can attach unique storage systems to each group you join or create, so you have control over who sees what at all times. Millions of families use messaging apps as quasi-photo albums. Why not do it on a platform that actually keeps the content organized and safe from prying eyes?
Create a free account on Idka today! be social, stay private®