Mobile encryption apps / tools
In this section we take a look at End-To-End Encryption Tools.
There are many legit reasons why you need mobile encryption and should be using secure communications. Your data is private and if it falls into the wrong hands then your stolen identity (and more) can be used against you.
Encryption doesn’t affect performance – so why not do it? Mobile encryption apps for Android and iOS are fast becoming the expected standard for the public – and we’d like to encourage you to adopt if by listing some recommended tools in this resource.
End to end messaging apps have become a standard means of communicating.
If you have any to add please let us know by dropping a comment below.
Released in 2013, Telegram was the most popular end-to-end messenger app for ISIS and other terrorist groups. In fact, in many ways, ISIS made Telegram “well known”. Telegram added “channels” to its app usage in 2014 – some features of the channels include “short-invite” sand the ability to download.
Telegram was developed by Nikolai and Pavel Duro. According to Telegram’s founder: “The number 1 reason for me to support and help launch Telegram was to build a means of communication that can’t be accessed by the Russian secret agencies.” So, clearly, the founders are not fans of FAGCI (the Russian equivalent of the NSA or GCHQ).
As of February 2016, Telegram’s members grew to a staggering 100 million – so clearly the app is popular and the technology is (was) very welcome.
Some countries have tried to ban Telegram. The Iranian government has cracked down on Telegram users by arresting over 100 group administrators and charged them with “immoral content” propagation.
Does Telegram as “a company” assist law enforcement? Well, they do, and they don’t. They do because in July 2016 they agreed to remove 600 pro-ISIS Telegram channels, and no, because they prove the security of their app by offering up to $300,000 to anyone that was able to crack into the communications over their end-to-end messaging encrypted mobile app. No one has to date been successful.
Whilst Telegram is considered “unhackable”, two Cybersecurity Experts, Ola Flisback and Zuk Avraham were able to discover certain vulnerabilities within the metadata and data being stored within the process memory.
Released in late 2014, Wickr is another popular mobile encryption app which was founded by American security experts.
Wickr is similar to (oddly) SnapChat because messages “self-destruct”. Wickr messages can be set to expire within minutes or days. Wickr scores highly for its’ ability to erase message by default and therefore all time stamps as well.
Clearly the industry leader which now ships with default encryption. Released in 2010, WhatsApp is now owned by Facebook. Founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum didn’t launch their app as a messaging mobile application, rather, it was meant to let the user know if their contacts were online. WhatsApp evolved into a messaging app and the company grew rapidly (over time) and was purchased by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014. A few years later Facebook merged WhatsApp metadata with their social media platform.
Compared to Telegram, WhatsApp has a gigantic user base, claiming to have over one billion users.
WhatsApp has, side from the standard encrypted messaging, the ability to send photos, audio and PDF documents.
Of concern is that the fact that all messaging (and associated media) is timestamped with the metadata so it is possible for Digital Forensic experts to build a picture and pattern of communications if they so wished (and of course with legal enforcement).
WhatsApp was banned in Brazil which results in removing approximately 94 million people off the system after the company (Facebook) refused to comply with court orders to hand over the logs of WhatsApp messaging in the governments war on drugs.
WhatsApp has also been previously banned in Bangladesh (along with other social media platforms too) as a result of political instability.
A security researcher, Bas Bosschert, was able to demonstrate that WhatsApp was vulnerable to being hacked. The WhatsApp hacking tool was called WhatsSpy and was able to track targets status online and edit/ view their privacy settings and more.
All told, WhatsApp has a reputation as not being completely secure compared to the other end-to-end mobile encryption apps on the market.
Available for download since July 2016, Signal is a free end-to-end encryption that works on both iOS and Android.
Edward Snowden made Signal popular by stating that he used it for his communication.
Since Signal is open sourced it can be forked into other projects or even white labelled, should that be deemed necessary.
Like Signal, Surespot is an open-source mobile encryption messaging app.
It is similar to Wickr in the sense that messages can be timed to be automatically ‘erased’ and, working on both iOS and Android, the app also facilitates ‘multiple identities’.
This mobile encrypted tool was named by ISIS as being their preferred mobile messaging application!
This app was designed by ex-US military. Upon hearing that their app was being used by Islamic State they decided to make creating an account more rigorous.
It’s worth also mentioning Viber. Viber has been on the market now for several years and it also, like the other mobile apps listed within this resource, the ability to send and receive end-to-end encrypted messaging.
Released in December 2012, this Swiss engineered mobile app has (like all the other encrypted messaging tools listed in this resource), end-to-end encryption and the ability to encrypt media.
According to Threema, “messages are stored for up to 14 days if not deleted on servers; whichever comes first”. This makes it impossible for law enforcement to subpoena Threema.
Interesting as a tangent to note that Threema joins the list of other notable and successful Cybersecurity companies such as Protonmail.