You've likely heard by now that encrypted messaging apps are a good way to keep your communications private. But there's a good chance you're not totally sure what makes them so safe.
There is no doubt of company or a government communication scenario, the content of communications needs to be more protected.
New research from experts in computer science has found that even though many people are using secure messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, they can't say with confidence how the apps protect user privacy. What's more, they're not sure that the services are safer than other options like SMS text messages and landline phone calls.
End-to-end encrypted tools are widely used but not accurately understood. It means that people might not choose encrypted messaging to send their most sensitive information, if they think their messages are likely to be intercepted and read on those services. What's more, if people don't see encrypted messaging as having a special level of security, they might not have a problem with government efforts to undo end-to-end encryption. That adds to the pressures tech companies already face in saying no to governments all over the world that want to get their hands-on encrypted messages.
The pressure is very real. Right now encrypted messaging service Telegram is in a legal battle with the Russian government, which shut down the service after the company refused to let it access encrypted messages. In 2016, a Facebookexecutive was arrested in Brazil when the company declined to give authorities access to WhatsApp messages as part of a criminal investigation.
Encrypted messaging apps scramble up your messages and phone calls so that only you and the person you're communicating with can access them. That means not even the messaging service can see what you're sending, and neither can anyone else who might intercept your web traffic. That's different from SMS messages and phone calls, which can be intercepted by your phone carrier and law enforcement, as well as hackers with the right equipment. That's pretty much the opposite of SMS messages, which by default can be seen by the companies that help transport them to your recipient.
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