From WhatsApp to Snapchat: How safe is your favourite messaging app?

Messaging is arguably the most popular category of smartphone apps. Even the simplest messaging apps are capable of sending text messages and keeping your social life alive. In the smartphone age, messaging no longer restricted to just sharing text messages. You now have apps in all shapes and sizes including ones for sending photo messages, disappearing messages, voice and video messages, and the list goes on.


With the growing popularity of messaging apps comes the pressing need to keep them safe. Recent reports of the Snapchat photo leak showed just how vulnerable your messages are on the web.


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has tested several messaging apps across different platforms to find out which ones protect your messages at different stages after being sent from your device. Based on the test it has produced a Secure Messaging Scorecard that shows the level of security provided by each messaging app. The website explains 'The Snowden revelations have confirmed our worst fears: governments are spying on our digital lives, grabbing up communications transmitted in the clear.'



The Secure Messaging Scorecard (Credit: The Electronic Frontier Foundation)


The scorecard indicates whether your messages are encrypted in transit, if the service provider can read it, whether you can verify the receiver's identity and other important security aspects. It shows that some of the most popular apps, such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber have feeble security practices in place. For example, even though WhatsApp messages are encrypted in transit, WhatsApp themselves can read your messages. Same is the case with Skype, Snapchat, Secret and Facebook Chat.


Some of the most secure messaging apps include Silent Text, Text Secure, Subrosa and Retroshare that check nearly all the boxes on the Secure Messaging Scorecard. While these provide solid protection, EFF points out that most of them are not the easiest to use and consequently not very popular among mainstream smartphone users.


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