Just how safe is the alternative that Say Hello to Privacy used as a slogan? We have sorted that out for you.
What exactly is Signal?
Signal is an encrypted messaging service that many people have only recently known, but has been around since 2015. The platform did not come out of nowhere and was set up by Matthew Rosenfed. The best man, who goes through life as Maxie Marlinspike, founded the start-up Whisper Systems in 2010. The company produced mobile security software such as TextSecure and RedPhone, both of which were intended for businesses. In 2011, the company announced that it was being acquired by Twitter. In 2013, Marlinspike left and founded a new company called Open Whisper Systems. With the knowledge he gained as a security researcher, and as a developer of TextSecure and Redphone, he built the Signal platform.
Of course, with such a background, the platform was fully focused on security and privacy. It is therefore not surprising that companies such as Facebook and Google laid the foundation of their security with the Signal protocol. Only applications like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp went much faster, because the companies were not dependent on a foundation. Signal leaned on the Freedom of the Press Foundation that year.
Three years later, Signal as a platform was suddenly helped by Brian Action. The man is a co-founder of WhatsApp and invested in Signal in 2018, when he just left Facebook with billions of dollars in his pocket. In fact, a Signal Foundation was established. This non-profit organization had to focus on the development of technology in which privacy and data had to be central at all times. Something that will bring the company a lot of popularity in 2021.
How does Signal protect its users?
So both the background and the foundation of Signal promise a lot of good, but are we seeing anything of those ambitious plans at the moment? How does the company ensure that you as a user are well protected?
Signal uses the open-source Signal Protocol to provide end-to-end encryption. This encryption, unlike Telegram, applies to every conversation you have. In that respect, the platform would be equivalent to WhatsApp, if it were not for the fact that it goes one step further. Unlike the other two applications, Signal not only encrypts the conversations, but also the metadata. This ensures that not only does the content of the text remain between you and the recipient, but that it is completely unknown who is conducting the conversation at all. This encryption is called Sealed Sender and ensures that even Signal has no idea who is talking to whom.
In addition, there are a number of privacy-focused functionalities. For example, the application can not only be protected with a password or a biometric lock, but there is also the option to prohibit screenshots within the app. Group conversations (in text or with video) are also encrypted and it is possible to blur faces in photos by default.
It’s also good to know that Signal doesn’t need much information from you. Where WhatsApp stores, among other things, the type of device, your purchases and your username, Signal has enough of your mobile number. In short: Signal is without a doubt a better chat app when it comes to security.
Encryption is really encryption
Apps like Telegram and WhatsApp speak of end-to-end encryption for the conversations that are conducted via the platforms. Telegram only offers this encryption for the Secret Chat function, where WhatsApp encrypts every conversation. However, there are a number of ways in which this encryption is nevertheless destroyed. For example, the conversations you have on WhatsApp are indeed encrypted, but the backups you make of them are not. In addition, certain keyboards also store what is typed, so that the messages are still stored somewhere.
In that respect, Signal puts words into action and encryption really means encryption. For example, it is possible to make a backup of your conversations, but they are only stored locally. Your messages do not end up in the cloud, so the encryption remains active. In addition, the platform offers you an incognito keyboard so that other apps cannot see what exactly is being typed.
Signal more secure than WhatsApp?
If you compare WhatsApp with Telegram and Signal, the Facebook app offers many functionalities that correspond. A good example of this is the end-to-end encryption that is applied by default to the conversations you have. But because of the backups and the keyboards, there are a number of ways through which that encryption can be broken. Signal knows how to prevent such gaps in the encryption and offers users a number of useful functionalities to optimize security.
Signal is seen as a safer version of WhatsApp and therefore an excellent alternative.
Also read: WhatsApp has a new function: messages can disappear after 7 days
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