Apps

6 secure messaging apps for your peace of mind

They all have end-to-end encryption by default

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The messaging apps we use every day should be private and secure. After all, personal messages reveal a lot about us. However, the recent WhatsApp debacle showed us that even the best messaging apps can succumb to sketchy practices.

A lot of companies these days advertise their messaging apps as “secure” but fail to live up to that promise. By default, users on the market for secure messaging apps should look if the app promises end-to-end encryption (E2E) for messages.

In simplest terms, end-to-end encryption means your messages are encrypted on the device before they get sent to servers. Encrypted here means turning your messages into random characters that only you and the person you’re sending the message to can properly read with a shared key. Think of encryption as sending secret letters with garbled characters to someone where the garbled characters can only be read with a guide.

With end-to-end encryption, you can be confident that no third parties will be able to read your messages. Only you and the person you are sending the message to  can read the encrypted message. This is important in this day and age especially when malicious hackers companies and even governments are out to get your message for different reasons such as blackmailing, profiteering, and surveillance.

So, here are the five best secure messaging apps that you can use every day with E2E enabled by default.

1. Signal: the up-and-coming alternative to WhatsApp

If you’re after the best of the best, then Signal is the one to get. This messaging app’s popularity skyrocketed as a result of the WhatsApp debacle. Suffice to say, the app continues to attract more users wary of the policy change in WhatsApp.

One major draw of Signal is its simple and intuitive interface. It works just like any other messaging app on the market. If your contact uses Signal, you can initiate a chat or a call relayed through secure servers.  As for the chat features, you get file and image sharing, audio clips, stickers, GIFs, and reactions. You can even set your messages to disappear after a period of time.

Group calls and chats work the same as you expect from other competing messaging apps.

Signal encrypts messages using its own open-source encryption protocol which has been touted as one of the most secure in the market. The whole app is also open-source so anyone can view and scrutinize the code of the app.

If there’s one major disadvantage to Signal, it would be the lack of users and features as compared to other popular messaging apps. As a consolation though, it counts influential figures such as Elon Musk and Edward Snowden among those who use it.

Another disadvantage for some users is that the app requires a phone number to register. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is a complete put-off for users who are concerned about their privacy. Luckily, developers have already confirmed that it is working on alternative ways for user registration.

The app is available for Android and iOS. For the best experience, you can also install Signal for Desktop which lets you send messages even without your smartphone nearby.

2. Wire: made in Switzerland

Wire may not exactly ring a bell to most, but it is one of the up-and-coming secure messaging apps in the market. Like Signal, it encrypts all messages by default. Originating from Switzerland, Wire users are covered by stricter European laws so you have that extra peace of mind.

The app also touts a simple and modern interface that makes it stand out in the crowd. Like other messaging apps in the market, it offers an easy way to chat with your friends or family members. It also supports image and file sharing, audio clips, GIFs, and message reactions. It even does secure voice and video calls.

Everything in the app is also open-source, just like Signal.

The app also offers additional features for businesses and organizations. These include secure collaboration features such as conferencing. Of course, those extra niceties come at different tiers and prices — Wire Pro and Wire Enterprise. As a side note, you can easily switch between personal and work accounts on the app.

Wire is available to download for Android and iOS. It also offers a web login for desktop users.

3. Wickr Me: best for businesses

Wickr Me works exactly like Wire, catering to both individuals and businesses. However, the app has three versions: the regular Wickr Me, a Wickr Pro version, and the enterprise-focused Wickr Enterprise. For most users, however, the regular Wickr Me is more than enough for their secure messaging needs.

By default, the regular Wickr Me features individual and group messaging for up to 10 people. You don’t need a phone number or an email address to register. In terms of interactivity, the app allows sending of files, images, and voice clips in a conversation. You can even set your messages and files to automatically delete themselves after a set amount of time.

The downside is that it lacks some features that are standard in other messaging apps. For example, it doesn’t have support for GIFs, message reactions, and replies. The biggest downside, however, is that you can only do audio or video call up to one person at a time on the regular Wickr Me.

Wickr Me shines the best when it comes to business use cases. Wickr Pro and Wickr Enterprise bump up the limit of group chat participants to 500 people and allows for group audio and video calls. These versions also gain broadcasting and screen sharing features. Wickr Enterprise even allows for self-hosting and full customization for big businesses.

All the versions of Wickr Me are open-source. Android users may get it on the Google Play Store while iOS users on the Apple App Store. There are also desktop apps available for Windows, macOS, and Linux users.

4. Threema: that one-time fee is worth it

Threema may put you off with its one-time cost of US$ 2.99, but that price is worth it since you’re looking at one of the most versatile and secure messaging apps in the world. It even boasts itself as being more secure than Signal.

The app doesn’t require phone numbers for registration. Instead, you are given a random ID upon signing up. From here, you can choose to optionally link your phone number or email address. Since it complies with strict European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, you are guaranteed additional protection for your messaging data. Not to mention, the whole app is also open-source.

There is also a plethora of features to explore on the app, including unique ones that can’t be found in others. It supports text and voice messaging as a standard. You can also create groups though you can’t initiate a group call at the moment. Sending media, files, and location is supported too. On top of it all, you get a handy polling feature and text formatting.

Like most on this list, Threema struggles in terms of total users. It doesn’t help that the app requires a one-time fee to use it, putting off potential users. Despite this one-time fee though, the app enjoys high rankings on both Android and iOS platforms.

You can get the app on Android and iOS. Desktop users may also access Threema via this web app.

5. iMessage: for Apple users only

Into the Apple ecosystem? You will be glad that Apple offers its own secure messaging app for users — the ever-popular iMessage. Even though it has a few downsides of its own, the Apple-exclusive messaging app is more feature-rich than ever.

Its rich set of features has made it one of the top choices for a secure messaging app. Like its competitors, it boasts secure text and voice messaging. Users have the ability to send media files too. Support for message reactions is here too, along with the ability to do inline replies. Plus, you get plenty of integrations with third-party apps that support iMessage.

Memojis and animojis are here to spruce up the messaging experience too. The app ties nicely into the whole Apple ecosystem, taking advantage of exclusive features such as iCloud backup which is godsent for iPhone users who regularly upgrade their devices.

Of course, the biggest drawback to iMessage is its limited availability. You cannot get iMessage on other non-Apple devices, and there is no indication that this will change in the future. Third-party solutions exist to remedy this but be warned that they are not officially recognized by Apple.

Another major downside is its closed-source nature. That means that independent security auditors can’t view and verify if iMessage is as secure as Apple would like its users to think.

Since this is Apple-exclusive, you can only get this on iOS and macOS devices. There is no need to install anything since the app is already integrated into the default messaging app.

Telegram: use at your own risk

The fallout of the whole WhatsApp debacle is a surge in the use of Telegram, a widely-popular messaging app that touts secure messaging for all. However, there is a big if to this premise. Telegram actually doesn’t use end-to-end encryption by default unless a user opts to do so via the “Secret Chats” feature.

Granted, users enjoy better features when using this as compared to others on this list. Most of these features, however, are only available to chats not using end-to-end encryption. Worse, end-to-end encrypted chats are limited to one person, unlike the others which allow for group messages.

As a tiny consolation though, voice and video calls are end-to-end encrypted by default. This doesn’t erase the fact that Telegram isn’t as secure as the company claims it to be, so use it at your own risk. If you really have to use it though, you will need to start a new message while selecting the secret chat feature.

Encryption is the key

In this day and age, it’s better to be safe than sorry. This doesn’t only apply to physical situations (especially at a time of pandemic), but also to digital scenarios such as communicating with others. Malicious hackers, rogue agencies, and even ordinary tech companies have gotten more sophisticated in acquiring personal data — simple safeguards just won’t work anymore.

In looking for a secure messaging app, you should always check if it offers end-to-end encryption by default. Encryption literally is the key to ensuring that your messages remain safe between you and your intended recipients.

Luckily, the market nowadays is moving towards enabling end-to-end encryption by default. Facebook, for example, has promised to enable it across all of its messaging apps in the future. Until then, you should be wary of using messaging apps and use common sense in giving out personal information.

Apps

Spotify will soon sell you tickets to concerts

It’s experimental for now

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Decades into the information era, buying tickets is still a harrowing experience for the modern-day fan. If you’re not lucky enough to nab great tickets through the usual ticketing sites, you’ll have to try your luck with the ferocious gray market of scalpers. In an experimental feature, Spotify has a new way for fans to see their favorite artists live: by selling tickets directly.

Over the years, Spotify has grown beyond the scope of music streaming. The platform now has sections dedicated to podcasts and talk shows. Now, if you know where to look, there’s also a section for selling tickets.

Notably, this isn’t Spotify’s first incursion into the world of live events. If you go through the list of categories, a Live Events section will take you to a page of concerts happening near you. However, clicking an event will only take you to the normal ways to get tickets, such as through Ticketmaster.

In contrast, the new Tickets page, spotted by Chris Messina (via TechCrunch), will sell you tickets directly through Spotify. Currently, the experiment is limited to a handful of artists like Crows, TOKiMONSTA, and Annie DiRusso. Additionally, each entry will only host pre-sale tickets. After that, sales will take place in the usual sources.

Spotify’s price will also incorporate booking fees going into the company’s revenue. However, unlike other sources, Spotify’s tickets promise to be transparent about pricing.

As the page indicates, the final Tickets page will merge with the current Live Events page. However, it’s still an experiment, even if you can already buy tickets now. Spotify has yet to announce when the feature will come to the general public (and to more artists).

SEE ALSO: Spotify launches new recommendation feature, Enhance

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WhatsApp will finally block screenshots for View Once photos

Update coming soon

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WhatsApp’s View Once feature was a massive step towards user privacy. The feature allows users to thaw out the fiery risk of the other person leaking sensitive information and media elsewhere. Well, sort of. Despite the feature’s disappearing nature, users can easily take a snapshot without fear of repercussions. Finally, WhatsApp is doing something about this critical flaw in an upcoming update.

WhatsApp is a constantly evolving product. Throughout the past few months, the app’s developers have experimented and shipped various updates to make everyone’s life easier. Now, compared to the previous accessibility-oriented updates, the upcoming one focuses more on privacy.

It’s not a set of brand new updates, though. At least one of the three updates — the ability to control who sees you online — was reported way back in June. Another one is relatively new: the ability to leave groups silently so as not to alert everyone that a user is leaving. Both of these are rolling out sometime this month.

Given what it fixes, the final update is more crucial. It will block users from taking screenshots of View Once messages. Once the update rolls out, WhatsApp will natively alert View Once viewers that screenshots are blocked for added privacy. Unfortunately, there is no timeline for the update. The announcement only has a “soon” placeholder for a release.

With social media the way that it is, privacy is an ever-growing concern that all users should prioritize. While platforms are still imperfect, small updates like these can surely help people protect their data.

SEE ALSO: WhatsApp officially launches emoji reactions, 2GB file sharing

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Transfer for free: Tonik now has InstaPay services

No added fees for transfers

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Tonik InstaPay

Tonik, the Philippines’ first neobank, now supports InstaPay services to make it even easier and more convenient for in-app transactions.

This means customers can now send and receive real-time transactions up to PhP 50,000 to and from participating banks and e-wallets with no added transfer fees using the digital bank.

To top-up another Tonik account, simply go to the “Top up” option on the dashboard, choose InstaPay, and copy the 14-digit Tonik account number.

For transfers to another bank, tap “Send Money Options” and select “To another bank”. Then, change the channel to InstaPay and fill out the necessary information.

What’s great about Tonik transfers is that they are free of charge although do note that other banks may have varied transaction fees for InstaPay top-ups.

This should matter a lot specially for workers as interbank transactions or transfers from e-wallets like GCash, Maya, and ShopeePay to banks and vice-versa usually cost anywhere between PhP 10 to PhP 25.

Tonik is available both via the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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