Now that everyone agrees we need to protect even our messages, the next question is, which is the best secure messaging app to use?
Which app you should use depends on what you care about, and why you need to protect your information.
In this article, we compare the most popular secure messaging apps against your needs and see which one wins.
Today’s lineup includes RokaCom, WhatsApp, iMessage, and Signal. We won’t go into their background here, as you can look them up for yourself, but rather keep to the comparison between them for features you care about. As people search for the most secure messaging app for 2018, these are sure to be your choices.
Both People Need the App!
Before you ask, YES, both people need the same app in order for the security to work. You can’t use the app to send a regular SMS to someone who doesn’t have that same app, therefore the SMS won’t be secure.
Encryption and Security
Today’s standard for security for the best secure messaging app is end-to-end encryption. To even be in the running for best secure messaging app, it has to have encryption that cannot be viewed in transit to the other person, either by the providers, governments or hackers who intercept your message.
|End To End Encryption||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can Provider Decrypt your message?||No||No||No||Maybe|
|Unintended Message Exposure||Yes||No||No||Yes (Backups)|
(note: on some devices, you may need to scroll the tables in this article to the right to see complete results)
iMessage comes standard with Apple’s iOS devices and is Apple’s private messaging app for iPhone and iPad. iMessage uses end to end encryption, however, it only works with other iOS devices. Worse yet, iMessage doesn’t tell you when the other side doesn’t have iMessage. So you can easily send a message in the clear without knowing it. Not very reliable if security is your goal.
WhatsApp does implement Signal’s encryption for messages, however, researchers have claimed. “Facebook can read your private WhatsApp Conversation” and you need to set WhatsApp up so that backups are encrypted. WhatsApp is great for sharing messages, but if your main goals are privacy and security, we suggest choosing another app.
Signal is a secure messaging app for Android and iOS devices. It is focused on a decentralized model for individuals. It's also free, but some people have issues with it's funding sources. The Signal Wikipedia page talks about their funding sources, at least one of which ties back to the US Government. With all this in mind, Signal is great but not right for all situations, as we’ll discuss.
RokaCom is also a secure messaging app for Android and iOS devices, but it is focused on the enterprise features that organizations require. It is privately funded and focused on delivering government grade security, user experience and service quality.
Each secure messaging app has its own benefits and unique features, but every app we reviewed at least provides end to end encryption.
Multiple Device Synchronization
With IOT being the new reality, people have more than one device, and often more than two. People expect to have data and accounts sync across their multiple devices, personal and work, mobile phone and tablets. Why should secure messaging be any different?
|Sync Messages Across Multiple Devices||Yes||Yes||No||No|
iMessage is great at syncing your messages across Apple devices logged into your Apple account.
WhatsApp and Signal are linked to your mobile device’s “phone number.” If you have a second device, you have to add the second phone number to all chats. Calls will only ring the one device, not all of them.
RokaCom syncs your secure messages across multiple Android or iOS devices. Once you log into your RokaCom Account, it happens automatically. A call will ring all of your devices at once, and go to the device you pick up first.
Business or Friends
For Friends and Family:
If your primary requirement for the best secure messaging app is securing your messages between friends, family and colleagues, Signal and RokaCom would be best. However, if you are more interested in sharing pictures and movies and security thenWhatsApp may be your best choice, as long as you don’t care about Facebook mining your data. WhatsApp currently has the best multimedia interface, but RokaCom’s RoadMap shows they are focused on surpassing WhatsApp’s user features.
When we talk about Business use, we talk about enterprise features and compliance. We have broken out some business features in the table below. Next, we will discuss the answers.
|Global Address Book||No||Yes||No||No|
|Find Other Users in Phone's Contacts||Yes||Under development||Yes||Yes|
|Control User Access||No||Yes||No||No|
|Audit User Usage*||No||Yes||No||No|
Finding the Best Secure Messaging App for Business
Businesses and Government organizations need features that make the IT department and user lives easier, not harder. Businesses need the ability to quickly enroll users, and the users need to be able to use the app without any training. These subtle differences are where we see most of the apps fall away for business use.
Connecting People with the Global Address Book
If users don’t have each other’s contact info, they can’t call or message each other. Convincing all of your users to share their personal mobile numbers… Good luck with that. You need a global address book, just like your mail server uses.
iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal use your phone’s contacts to connect with other users. Which means each user needs to manually enter everyone else’s contact information to use the secure messaging app.
RokaCom automatically syncs the enterprise global address book to each user’s phone.
Controlling User Access
What happens when an employee leaves the company? Do they just walk away with that information on their phone? Like turning off access to company email account, businesses need a way to remove access to the data stored on employee phones in messaging apps.
iMessage, WhatsApp and Signal are focused on individuals keeping their data.
RokaCom is focused on enterprise customers and their ability to control user’s access to their information. Disable a user’s account and he or she can’t view the information in the app.
*Auditing Users Activity
This is NOT the ability to view messages or record calls. This is about auditing user login time, when they sent a message and to whom. Looking in your phone’s recent contact list may be good enough for messaging and calls between friends, however, businesses have greater auditing requirements.
Compliance and Regulation
From medical to government, businesses and organizations have compliance and regulatory requirements. As the table below shows, while some of the messaging apps encrypt your data, they don’t meet the major compliance frameworks out there. There’s more to meeting compliance than just encryption.
|NIST 800-53 Government||No||Ready by April 2018||No||No|
|NIST 800-171 Government Contractors||No||Ready by April 2018||No||No|
The best private messaging app for you depends on your needs. Write down how you would use it, who you want to use the best secure messaging app with, and try a few of them. In the end, you need to make sure you'll actually use it and not fall back to insecure SMS. In the meantime, here's a wrap up of each app to help you decide where to start first.
While iMessage is a great feature that Apple added to protect its users, it’s too easy to accidentally send unencrypted data over the mobile network. If you’re serious about security, iMessage shouldn’t be your solution.
Want the best multimedia experience to send picture and videos to your friends, and security isn’t your main priority? WhatsApp may be the right choice for you.
Security is a priority, you don't need business features, and want a Free app, definitely check out Signal.
If you need Government Grade Secure messaging and calling with Enterprise features from enrollment to management, then RokaCom is the best secure messaging app for you.