There are 2.52 billion people using messaging apps on their mobile devices. And a staggering 41 million messages are sent out every minute from smartphones around the world.
So, chances are good that at some point today you’ll use a smartphone app to send or receive a few messages. But, can you be sure your messages are safe from the prying eyes of hackers or government snoops? The answer may surprise you…
Last year, European law enforcement authorities were investigating a terror suspect linked to the Islamic State. According to news reports, law enforcement had been tracking the suspect because they feared there would be a terrorist attack during the 2019 holiday season.
A European judge had granted them permission to use whatever means necessary to get into the suspect’s phone. So, when they learned he was using a messaging app they knew they needed spyware to hack into the phone.
The government of the Western European country had a contract with the Israeli-owned software company NSO. And they used spyware from NSO to hack into the suspect’s messaging app to gather intelligence to prevent a terrorist attack.
Then, these officials claim that a Facebook-owned messaging app informed the suspect his phone was hacked by law enforcement. That’s because Facebook sent a message to 1,400 users, including the suspect, letting them know their messaging app may have been hacked.
The message from Facebook read: “An advanced cyber actor exploited our video calling to install malware on user devices. There’s a possibility this phone number was impacted.”
European investigators say they were close to nabbing the suspect until their spyware on his phone suddenly shut off. Even though Facebook tipped off the terror suspect, law enforcement was able to prevent him from carrying out an attack.
These days, many people use encrypted messaging apps to keep their conversations private – whether for business or a conversation with their spouse. And one of the most popular messaging apps is Signal.
One of Signal’s best features is its end-to-end encryption, which means that no one – not the government, the phone company, or Signal itself – can read your messages.
Of course, Signal isn’t the only end-to-end encrypted messaging app available. However, its features and the fact that its code has been open-source for years (meaning cyber hackers have had plenty of opportunities to poke and prod it for flaws)…
Makes Signal a great option for protecting your privacy. Yet, while it’s one of the best and most secure messaging apps around…
There are even more steps you can take to secure your messages and personal information when using Signal:
Creating your account. Signal requires you to provide a phone number when you join, which essentially serves as your user name. But, you don’t have to use your actual phone number and you shouldn’t.
To avoid using your real phone number, use a Google Voice number instead. And, if you want to make your Signal app completely untraceable to you, simply purchase a prepaid or “burner” phone and use that phone number to set up the account.
Make Messages Disappear. While you can always delete messages manually during a conversation, that only affects your phone, which means the people you’re chatting with still have the message on their devices.
To ensure that the conversation is deleted on both ends of a thread, you should use “disappearing messages.”
Basically, you can set the amount of time you want messages to be live before they vanish (anywhere from five seconds to one week). And you’ll have to take this step separately for each contact that you message, as there’s no “universal” setting.
Of course, people can still screenshot your conversations to keep a record, so don’t assume they’re gone forever. But, this is an additional protective feature, especially useful if your phone is ever stolen.
Send and delete photos. As on other messaging apps, you can use Signal to send photos and videos. But, Signal has a few privacy features that set it apart.
First, if you take a photo within Signal it doesn’t automatically save to your camera roll, so it doesn’t get backed up to your cloud photo library. You can also ensure your photos and videos don’t stay on the recipient’s device long.
Before you hit send, note the infinity icon next to the chat bubble. That means that the media you’re about to share can be viewed indefinitely. Tap the infinity icon once, and it’ll switch to a 1x, meaning the photo or video will disappear as soon as it’s been viewed.
Lastly, Signal recently added a new blur feature to its in-app camera, which will automatically blur any faces it detects in the photo. All these features combine to make Signal the leader in secure messaging apps.
And by enabling the latest features, and using an untraceable phone number you can make your account that much more secure.