Secure Texting App or Secure Messaging App: Which should you use?
You need to protect your text messages and a secure texting app seems like the way to go.
However, there’s a difference between secure texting apps and secure messaging apps.
In this article, we’ll explain:
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Texting versus Messaging
It’s funny how industry terms change almost overnight. It used to be that texting and messaging were synonyms. However, as technologies evolved the terms parted diverged.
"SMS texts" are sent through your mobile carrier's network, while messages from a messaging app are sent over the internet.
(A.K.A SMS) Sending messages via the Short Message Service (SMS) protocol over a mobile carrier’s network. SMS is a standard of mobile phones and carriers and transmits messages over the control channel. SMS is NOT encrypted or secure by default.
Messaging Apps send messages via Internet Protocol (IP) or other service that can use the data connection of your mobile provider or WiFi. Most importantly, it is a separate app and protocol that the mobile providers, typically, don’t control. Modern messaging apps are usually encrypted, at least to the server. Examples of these apps are signal secure messaging app and RokaCom’s Enterprise Secure Messaging and Calling App.
What Secure Text should mean to you!
When we are taking about secure texting or secure messaging, you really need to be using an an app that uses end-to-end encryption. This means the message you send can only be decrypted by the receiving user or device you send the message to. The provider can’t decrypt the SMS or text message while it is on their server.
They’re still collecting your meta data
With the revelation that NSA is collecting your metadata, you need to know that even if you use the best private messaging app that encrypts SMS text messages, your metadata is still collectable. Mobile providers and the government can still collect:
- Who you text message
- When you sent the message
- Encrypted Blogs of data
- General area where you sent the message (from cell phone tower data)
If you use a secure messaging app, NSA may be able to obtain that information as well, however it is not as easy since they need a separate warrant versus the metadata collection program.
Both Sides need the App
Whatever you choose, know that both sides need the app, typically the same app. You CANNOT send an encrypted text message to someone who is not using the same or similar app and expect them to read it.
Secure Texting Apps
Let’s review a few SMS Secure Texting Apps, but as with other apps, when choosing, you need to think about things like:
- Is it supported on both Android and iPhone?
- Is it free or paid?
- Do I care if my mobile provider knows who I send encrypted messages to?
Platform, price and whether your mobile provider has access to your data are all things to think about when choosing a secure messaging app.
iMessage is the default SMS app on Apple devices, and it is automatically setup. However, it can lead you into a false sense of security.
- When SMS or Texting another iOS / Apple user, iMessage automatically encrypts your message end-to-end to the other user.
- When sending SMS or texting to another Apple user, iMessage turns into an encrypted messaging app for iPhone and uses Apple’s servers.
- Syncs messages across your devices including your desktop.
- Only works from Apple Devices to other Apple Devices
- You don’t know ahead of time if it will encrypt or send unencrypted SMS, unless you know what app the other person is using.
- If you loose your data connection, it will send the SMS unencrypted, even if the other user uses Apple
- Cannot send encrypted secure text to Android users.
GPG Based Secure Texting Apps
GPG is the open source implementation of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption. The good thing about using this method is that each user can use different apps on different platforms and they can still decrypt each other’s messages. However, there is some training involved, and if you or the people receiving your messages aren’t techies, you’re going to have user experience issues.
I know, I know, I’ll wait for the hate comments below, but trust me I’ve been down this road trying to explain, “It’s really easy once you do these 3 simple steps where normally you just do one. Trust me, it’s important.” People usually stop using GPG after the third message.
The Allure of GPG:
Privacy enthusiasts love GPG because your keys aren’t tied to a service provider and most of the apps are open source and moderately reviewed.
I'm a big fan of GPG myself, until I have to explain how to use it to a non-tech person.
GPG Key Apps to Check Out
NOTE: I am NOT endorsing these apps, I am merely outlining the options. You should research who makes the apps and decide if you trust them or not!
Nate and Mirona Table with the icons of the apps?
iPhone : http://pgpeverywhere.com/
Android : https://www.openkeychain.org/
Both Apps show integration with text messaging, but you should try it out to see if you think you will be able to convince others to use it.
Make your life easy, use Secure Messaging Apps
There’s a reason why so many Secure Messaging Apps have emerged. Frankly they’re just better than trying to encrypt your SMS for all the reasons outlined above, and
- They are typically built for both Android and Apple Devices
- They are designed so the user doesn’t have to do any extra steps to ensure encryption
- Your mobile provider only sees you connecting to the service, they don’t know who you messaged (typically).
If you’re interested in the most secure messaging app, now might be the time to read our other post Best Secure Messaging App: What’s the right choice for you?
Looking for the Best Secure Messaging App?
Check out our other article: Best Secure Messaging App: What’s the right choice for you?
But if you want to know the difference between Secure Texting and Secure Messaging, keep reading, and then visit our other blog!
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You get all the encryption and secure messaging app features you need with all of the enterprise and user self-service standards you’ve come to expect from SAS services.