Are our text messages secure? Can they be intercepted and read? These are some questions not many of us smartphone users are asking, but not all text apps offer untouchable security. In fact, some methods of communication offer practically no/little security at all.
Following on from WhatsApp’s announcement that end-to-end (E2E) encryption has finally been deployed it appears that Viber is the latest tech company to advertise its security credentials, as the mobile messaging giant announces end-to-end encryption and a new PIN-protected hidden chat feature are to come.
E2E encryption means that messages are encrypted on the sender’s device and only the recipient can decrypt them, preventing anyone in the middle from reading the content. Similarly, Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage also feature E2E encryption. Other third-party apps also have end-to-end encryption enabled by default, just like others such as WhatsApp, FaceTime and iMessage.
Meanwhile, regular text messages aren’t encrypted at all. Other user favourite chat apps including Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Kik, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger only offer in-transit encryption, which means they could be accessed by a third party.
In order to ensure that your chats are fully protected with E2E encryption, you and the people you are talking to must be using the same app. Meaning that you are only able to iMessage those who are using iOS and MAC devices, and for secure cross platform communication you would need to use apps such as WhatsApp, the soon to be secure Viber and others.
Viber’s introduction of end-to-end encryption follows similar moves by other messaging companies — such as Line, WhatsApp, and Wire — which have all strengthened their default privacy features in recent times. It also comes as tensions between the tech world and law enforcement are running high. Indeed, Apple’s ongoing spat with the FBI has brought the privacy versus national security debate to the front pages and to prime time talk shows.