We live in an ever-changing technological world, and with all the constant revelations of government snooping upon private communications such as our texts, phone calls, and instant messenger chats, one thing that many people who want to keep their communications private can learn from is safe, encrypted messenger applications.
Some mobile systems and applications come with end-to-end encryption, such as Apple iOS’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp. The main focus of our article today will focus on keeping our conversations on our Android phones and Linux computers safe, private, and encrypted.
One of the most important and secure forms of encrypted communications is PGP, or “Pretty Good Protection.” PGP can be used to encrypt a message using your specific PGP public key, making it to where only the intended recipient can decrypt it with their private key. PGP can be used across many operating systems, including Linux, MacOS, and Windows. It is fairly straightforward to set up. You can use PGP to send messages securely across emails, instant messengers, anywhere text can be copied and pasted. After it is set up, it is as simple as copying the encrypted message into your clipboard and decrypting with your private key.
Sometimes you need to have a conversation via instant messenger, and you don’t need to worry about it being snooped upon. One Linux instant messenger we can use is Pidgin! Pidgin comes pre-installed in some distros, and if it doesn’t come pre-installed with your favorite Linux distro, all you need to do is open up a terminal and type:
“sudo apt-get install pidgin”
Once you have Pidgin successfully installed onto your system, you can link your instant messenger accounts to it, such as IRC, ICQ, AIM, XMPP, Bonjour, and several others. Once your instant messenger account of choice is connected to Pidgin, you and your conversation partner can enable the Pidgin plugin “OTR,” which stands for Off-The-Record. As soon as your OTR conversation begins, you can chat assured that no logs are being kept and your conversations will disappear once you and your conversation partner log out of Pidgin.
Sometimes we need to take our private conversations on the go with us. We need encrypted messaging options we can trust on our mobile devices. Wickr Messenger is an encrypted messenger application for Google Android and Apple iOS phones and tablets. It offers many ways to keep your conversations encrypted and secure. It offers end-to-end encrypted messaging for all of it’s users, and it’s messaging and security protocols are open to public review by experts. It offers the user several different options on keeping their messages safe, such as “burn on read time,” where you can set different amounts of time for your messages to vanish, on a per-conversation basis. You can set your messages to self destruct from a range as short as a few seconds, to as long as several days. Wickr has no access to any user data, and new keys are generated on each new message, so you can be assured that your messages with your conversation partners are just that, yours. Wickr also offers separate apps for enterprise systems and teams, so if you need to have encrypted conversations with an entire team at once, Wickr has you covered.
Another encrypted messenger app for Android and iOS, as well as a desktop version. Signal comes from the devs at Open Whisper Systems, and offers several ways to keep your conversations safe. One of Signal’s biggest advocates is NSA whistleblower and leaker, Edward Snowden. It uses mobile numbers as identifiers, while the desktop version links to the mobile client to ensure account security. Signal uses end-to-end encryption to keep the conversations between you and your correspondents safe. It offers text messaging, voice calls, and video calling. Calls are made over a Wi-Fi or data connection and are encrypted just the same as the messages you send over Signal. Encryption keys that are generated for users are stored by the “endpoints,” as in, by the users, and not the servers. Signal uses what is known as “trust on first use” mechanism, which notifies users if one of their correspondent’s key changes. Android users can make Signal their default SMS/MMS application if they wish. Signal users can also define what time periods their messages will disappear from their own and their correspondent’s devices. Signal is open-source software and can be reviewed by anyone, ensuring the software is safe and secure for its users.
Encryption Helps Keep Our Messages Safe From Prying Eyes
No matter what operating system you run, no matter what mobile device you’re on, there are options to help you keep your correspondence safe from prying eyes. We live in a time in which we are trading our privacy for security, a time when governments, hackers, and corporations can access our conversations. Our text messages, our phone calls, our e-mails, our social media messages. Encryption is our best friend when it comes to keeping our data and our conversations private. Learn everything you can about encryption, become familiar with it, and utilize it. Privacy is becoming a rare commodity, and soon, only the people with the proper know-how are going to be the ones with any semblance of opaqueness in an increasingly transparent world.