Tips on using Instant Messaging Apps

  1. One of the most commonly used application on mobile devices is the instant messaging app, relied upon by millions to communicate with friends and family or to share news and information.

  2. Most instant messaging apps claim to preserve user security and privacy, however most do not have sufficient protections.

  1. Whatsapp Messenger is considered one of the most used instant messaging apps in the world. On mobile, it applies end-to-end encryption to all traffic by default using the highly secure Signal encryption protocol.

  2. Whatsapp is however owned by Facebook and subject to the company’s user agreement which can mean your Whatsapp account information can be shared to Facebook. You can opt-out from sharing your Whatsapp account information through the app in Settings >Account> De-select “share my account info”. Note that this only applies to limited and not all information from being shared.

  1. Telegram messenger is another commonly used instant messaging app. It claims to offer client-client encryption through an option called “Secret Chat”, however unlike Whatsapp, it does not use the secure Signal encryption protocol and does not encrypt all traffic by default. Normal chats and channels are not-end-to-end encrypted and should never be used to share private information.

  1. The most secure app that we recommend most people use is Signal. This is an Open Source app designed by Open Whisper Systems with secure end-to-end encryption for both calls and messages. A recent update has also ensured that any conversation can be configured to delete sent and received messages after a specified interval.

  2. The extent of your security in using instant messaging apps depends upon you and your needs. If you require the protection of your communications, the use of messaging apps that offer encrypted communications is always recommended.

  3. For extra security, it is always advisable not to keep sensitive or private information on any device connected to the internet.

  4. For safety and security, always download your chosen application from its official website or your device’s application store. Other applications might be malicious.

  5. For extra control over your privacy, limit application access to device services that you might not need such as location access. You can always change your settings when needed.

  6. It is advisable to enable the option to receive messages from existing contacts only in the phone and ignore random messages if this option is available in the app.

  7. Do not click on links in messages sent over instant chat apps if you do not know or trust the sender. We have identified that IP Spy and other malicious links have been sent in this manner and could harm your digital security and privacy.

  8. Most instant chat apps require use of your mobile phone number to enable service. This information could be visible to alert phone service companies. This remains an issue of concern in repressive countries as government will request this information to target rights activists. There are applications that offer use of other phone numbers or email addresses to use in place of your own.

  9. If you are worried about your privacy, do not share any private information through chat apps that could lead to your identification.

  10. For secure group messaging, we also advise the use of Jitsi. This provides services for secure video and audio calls as well as instant messaging. Click here to download Jitsi.

  11. Your mobile device is always communicating with its service provider and its GPS can track your every move. In situations where you do not want your location exposed, do not carry your mobile device with you.