There are so many different secure chat apps available, it can often be difficult to understand what divides the genuine ones that will keep your communications truly secure, with those that are simply here to collect and sell your metadata. So, what do you need for a chat app to be good?
In today’s article, we are going to look at exactly that, so you can understand what a communication solution has to do to truly let you own your privacy.
End-to-end encryption is the basepoint for messaging privacy
When it comes to private chat apps, end-to-end encryption is the first step. It makes sure that your message cannot be read whilst it is in transit from sender to receiver. Many hackers and other criminal elements have many different ways in which they can try to intercept data. The worst part is that apps to do this are available on the dark web and some individuals are able to take tools meant for legal and legitimate purposes, such as testing network security and engineer them to be used for criminal purposes.
Most communication apps use 256-bit AES as their encryption algorithms. Now this is good, but it is being replaced by more advanced and stronger encryptions as time goes on. The cutting-edge encryption is 521-bit elliptic curve cryptography (Which is what SKY ECC uses). With this advanced protocol, it can keep you information and message secured for years to come.
Keeping your Metadata private
Metadata is one of the main targets that criminals will try to go after. Message metadata can tell a lot, from who you talked to, when the conversations happened and even where in the world the people were. Protecting metadata is not easy. This is due to many apps and networks needing small amounts of metadata to function, such as with messaging apps that need it to send messages. Think of it like writing the address on an envelope when you send a letter. The messaging app needs the metadata to know where it is being sent to. Think of how many messages you send a day. That stacks up to a lot of metadata.
If someone was to observe someone else’s metadata, there are distinct patterns that could be easily figured out. It could potentially be used to plot where you travelled and who you are with in real life. If you were to send a message from a friends or family members house, metadata would have the address. Metadata may not hand over the messages, but it tells a lot on its own.
Signing up privately
When you first sign-up for an app, you do not want that information you have given to be then used so that people could trace who you are or similarly unnerving prospects. Sadly, many sign ups can be used to track your IP address, the email you use, phone number or even the way you payed for it. All of these take away your anonymity in an instance.
For true privacy, anonymous chats are essential. Whilst anonymity can take many different forms, it starts when you first sign up. IF people are allowed to sign up without phone numbers or emails, using any name they wish or randomly generates identifiers, it allows for sign ups to be truly private.
Self-destructing messages help keep your privacy
Whilst it sounds like something right from a James Bond film, self-destructing messages are a fantastic feature when it comes to keeping your privacy secure. Messages from a loved one maybe nice to keep around or a postcard from far away, but important messages carrying sensitive information need to be kept from any person viewing them. Yes, you could try and store the message, but it could still be potentially be read. If the message is no longer there, then there is nothing to read.
Apps with self-destructing message features often allow for the sender to choose the time frame from when the receiver first reads the message to it being deleted, be it a single minute to a week. Other apps have a default time frame in which the message will be deleted after a number of days have passed. Both guarantee that the message can never be seen again or that someone could access it a few months later. Once it is deleted, it is gone for ever.
Keeping your contacts private
If anyone can message you at any point, if you can have your messages besieged with spam and malware from unknown contacts, then it is not private. WhatsApp, Viber and many other messaging apps suffer from this. And this can affect anyone, such as with Jeff Bezos. A spam message was sent to him which contained a video laced with a malicious code, which then stole data from his phone.
Contact security features are needed on apps as it make it impossible for people from contacting anyone with just a name. Alongside this, you need features that will block those you do not want messaging you, as well as letting the user have approval over who can message them.
Privacy for devices
One of the biggest mistakes that so many chat apps fall on is making sure the device is secure. If it does not have the app in a separate container and does not have tamper-resistant chips, then no matter what you install, it will never be 100% secure or private. Should a supply chain attack happen, every aspect of the device is compromised when it comes to safety.
Be it apps drawing data or stalkerware and keyloggers, the data on your device is at risk, potentially being stolen without you ever realising. There is a high level of focus currently on the safety of apps, but the quality of the hardware is just as important to security and privacy. Both need attention if a device is to be truly secure.
Device management to keep your information protected
People lose their phones every day. And when you do lose a phone, all the information on it is suddenly at risk. However, with device management, you can remotely lock and even wipe your device remotely, making sure that no matter where you lost it, you can always make sure your data is protected.
Hackers can easily extract data from your phone and take what they wish. With device management measures, you can make sure that you always have your devices protected, even if you lose them.
Privacy strategies for networks
The biggest problem with networks is that regardless of its Wi-Fi, cellular data or the internet in its entirety, everyone has to use them but very few actually can control or secure any of them. Every network you use is controlled by an array of public or private companies, all with varying views and policies on protecting your privacy. And if any of these systems is vulnerable, then it can read to all the data that has been shared across it becoming compromised.
Some of these hacks have been around for many years, such as the Signalling System No.7 hack, which by connecting to mobile networks can allow the hacker to lisrten into calls, read messages and take over devices of anyone on the targeted network. To stop this, encrypted messages are needed, as well as other security issues with the network, as they do not always protect your data. The image below can help show how SKY ECC works around this to keep you protected.
Server backups compromise your privacy
On paper, having an online back up for all your messages sound like a great idea. The minute you lose your phone, you instantly have every message you have sent waiting in storage for you when you redownload the app. But in reality, they are nothing but a massive risk to your privacy. As they are stored in a server, they just become another risk for your privacy, as all the data and messages you have stored there can be hacked into. And once they get in, that’s it, privacy instantly compromised.
And it gets worse. With secure messaging apps you would think that they would store the messages encrypted. With WhatsApp, if you have any stored messages, they are all kept as plain text. This means that attackers can destroy the end-to-end encryption that protects them as they can instantly go for the weak server. And everything is right there for them to easily read. Whilst backups are very convenient, they compromise the security and privacy of the user. With backups, every message you want send can be compromised.
Keeping your communications safe
Every single day, thousands of people around the world fall victim to scammers, fraudsters and hackers who use online messaging to take advantage of people and compromise their privacy. And this is before even mentioning how many companies and developers track your movements online too. Data privacy is something we all deserve. By educating ourselves on the issues, choosing the right apps and being aware of new developments, we can all have data privacy. At SKY ECC, we make sure that every day we approach with the mindset of defending data privacy, so we can help keep your communications secure.