The era of social media and instant messaging brought a wide array of benefits. We can catch up with friends and family anytime regardless of our location.
However, such convenience came at a high price: our privacy. Our private information is highly desirable to cybercriminals and fraudsters, as they can use it to open new credit cards and loans in our name without our awareness, damaging our credit scores.
Information security is even more important for businesses, as customer data breaches can cause severe reputational and financial damage.
For example, the Marriott breach in 2020 began with the theft of the employee login credentials and used to access 5.2 million guests’ information. The security breach happened due to poor security levels, more specifically, due to:
Poor monitoring of privileged accounts
Poor and infrequent monitoring of databases
Poor security controls
Poor encryption system
As a result, Marriott had to pay a fine and faced a class-action lawsuit. Similarly, last year Telegram suffered a data breach in which hackers exposed users' details on darknet forums. According to the App makers, this happened due to built-in contact export feature vulnerability.
Today, more and more companies use messaging platforms as a replacement for in-person conversations, mainly because it's more convenient and many employees work remotely these days. However, they shouldn't sacrifice privacy for convenience and their choice of chat apps should factor security, encryption, and their track record of keeping personal information private.
That said, we decided to explore the most secure messaging apps both for businesses and personal use and how you can build a secure chat solution yourself.
What Security Features Do Safe Chat Apps Have?
We use chat apps all the time, both for personal and professional use. The biggest "catch" is we have to trust the app developers with our personal information because most require us to sign in to use them. Furthermore, we disclose our personal information constantly through chat.
Because of their popularity, messaging apps have become a broad attack surface leaving billions vulnerable to data breaches.
For instance, the Snapchat server experienced a hack because it failed to fix an application programming interface (API) security vulnerability in time. Messaging apps are also prone to cyberattacks, especially as many have been diversifying their services and expanding their features.
For example, WeChat now allows users to take and pay for cabs, and shop in online stores via their messaging app. If extra features get rolled out on a large scale before ensuring they can be used securely, the messaging app can put users at greater risk.
With that being said, let’s see what features are being used to secure chat apps. These include:
Messaging apps don't send messages in clear text format. Instead, they use some kind of encryption to send messages to prevent malicious activities. However, not all encryption methods are made the same, nor are they equally secure. Some chat apps will encrypt messages users send while they're in transition and storage, but they'll also hold a copy of encryption keys which means these messages could be potentially read by a third party.
End-to-end encryption is the safest form of encryption since it decrypts messages only on the recipient's device, meaning that the data can never be decrypted on the server nor in transit. Today most secure messaging apps are using end-to-end encryption including Signal, WhatsApp, Wickr, and Apple's iMessage.
Data masking is a process that serves to modify sensitive data in a way that has little or no value for attackers but is still usable by software or authorized users. The reason why data masking is used is to protect sensitive information, while still making it usable for valid test cycles.
Virus and Malware Scanners
Viruses and malware are one of the biggest threats to our security online, and noticing them is not always so easy. Having a solution that will automatically detect and prevent any malicious activity on any device you’re using is super handy, and it can save you a lot of headaches and worry.
Various Privacy Regulations
To make chat apps secure, many countries demand chat app providers to follow various safety regulations and instant messaging protocols. Some of these include HIPAA, ISO, SOC2 and GDPR regulations.
Building a Secure Messaging App From Scratch
Building secure messaging apps from scratch can prove to be costly and time consuming, and only a few are willing to do so.
The truth is: you don’t have to build all these features by yourself.
There are some out-of-the-box, secure, and reliable solutions, such as CometChat’s SDK, that allow you to build apps faster without compromising security.
You can save time and resources using CometChat’s SDK and avoid worrying about compliance. All the security and compliance features are built in, and therefore require minimal effort to integrate into your messaging app.
What’s more, CometChat’s robust extension library allows developers of any level, even non-coders, to create complex and modern chat solutions and integrate them into their existing technology stack.
Lastly, although many competitors that usually offer their product only via the cloud, CometChat also offers on-prem deployment that allows customers to have greater control over security, helping them meet security and compliance requirements.
The Most Secure Messaging Apps Of 2022
Now, let’s see what the most secure messaging apps of 2022 are and what kind of security features they have.
Signal is a great chat app that enables text messaging, voice calls, and group chat and uses its own end-to-end encryption protocol. Users don't need any special login credentials to use this app, adding an extra layer of security.
Furthermore, all messages on this platform can be set to self-destruct after a certain period of time, and change phone numbers while keeping data on Signal intact. Lastly, Signal encryption is so strong that it's used by many chat app solutions such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Threema is another good choice for a secure messaging app that uses the NaCl cryptography library for end-to-end encryption to protect users' communications. Once the app is open, it generates a unique ID key that allows users to use the app anonymously. Plus, each user gets a QR code to connect with other Threema users.
Besides having encrypted text, voice, and video, the app also includes file sharing, emojis, group messaging, and a polling system for getting feedback from friends and contacts.
iMessage is one of the preferred ways of communication between Apple users. However, its end-to-end encryption works only on messages between iPhone users.
This app also has an option to self-destruct messages. Users can control how long their data will be visible before it disappears and how many times the recipient will be able to see the message. Encrypted messages remain on Apple’s servers for seven days before they’re deleted.
While Telegram suffered a data breach in 2021, the app developers responded quickly and offered a security fix. The speed of their response to cyber threats still lends support to the widely-believed notion that Telegram is among the most secure chat apps in the market.
This app allows users to send encrypted messages, with client-server encryption for standard chats. However, it's important to mention that end-to-end encryption is not the default on Telegram and users have to manually set it by opting into a Secret Chat mode. Users can also set messages to self-destruct, share videos and documents, and participate in group chats of up to 200,000 users.
Wire is among the most secure messaging apps that uses end-to-end encryption to protect users' privacy. User's don't have to worry about tinkering with security settings as its end-to-end encryption always works in the background. What’s more, a new encryption key is generated for every message.
Wire is an open-source app that allows everyone to inspect the code. Lastly, this app is compliant with ISO, CCPA, GDPR, SOX data protection policies which adds an extra layer of security.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular (and safest) messaging platforms that uses end-to-end encryption for almost a decade. WhatsApp takes security seriously. They are constantly improving privacy features and testing transfers of chat history when switching between iOS and Android phones.
Users can even make a disappearing chat if they want extra privacy. Lastly, users can verify each chat's 60-digit security-verification code or QR code and compare it with a contact to ensure that their conversation is encrypted.
Silence or, formerly SMS Secure, is an SMS and MMS app that can be used even when you aren't connected to the internet. It uses end-to-end encryption and it's regularly audited by security experts to prevent any possibility of malicious attacks.
Users don't have to make an account which adds an extra layer of security. Lastly, this is an open-source app so anybody can check the code for errors or vulnerabilities.
Build Your Own Chat App With CometChat
If you want to develop your own chat app solution, you don’t have to do it from scratch. CometChat’s SDK has strong security features including a disappearing message extension that works both in one-on-one and group conversations as well as end-to-end encryption similar to what WhatsApp uses.
Furthermore, CometChat is HIPPA, GDPR, ISO 27001, and SOC2 compliant which adds extra layers of security. Lastly, those who choose CometChat’s SDK for their chat messaging solution would be happy to hear they’ll be secure in both transit (TLS/SSL) and at rest (AES-256).
Prevention is protection. Adding security features we listed to your chat app solution can save you money, maintain trust, and help avoid liability.
While we can find plenty of ready-made secure chat app solutions available in the market, we firmly believe that custom-made solutions provide high levels of security, as they're tailored to your and your user's needs.
That said, using a trusted SDK provider such as CometChat can help you streamline your processes while keeping the privacy of your users intact.
Sign up to our developer dashboard and see how easy it is to add secure messaging to your own website or app. With our chat widget, you can get up and running in as little as 5 minutes.
About the Author
Nabeel Keblawi, a deaf entrepreneur, runs a Content Marketing and SEO agency that helps B2B SaaS companies grow organically in their industries around the world. His previous work experience involved software development, renewable energy, and cloud computing. In his personal life, Nabeel loves to go hiking with his family, and dust off his skis to hit the slopes given the chance. He is also an avid reader of fictional history.