Top tips is a weekly column where we highlight what’s trending in the tech world today and list out ways to explore these trends. This week, we’ll discuss a few hacks to keep your instant messaging secure.
We all exchange texts everyday. It has easily become the most used mode of communication in the last decade. But, very few of us think about the security aspects of instant messaging. It’s time to change our mindsets.
Messaging apps were utilized by over three billion people in 2021, solidifying their status as one of the most widely embraced types of applications. While some age groups send more, about 85, and other age groups less, about 16, the average consumer sends 72 messages a day, or about three an hour.
Like any other online activity, texting has its own risks. To provide a better understanding, let’s discuss the spyware, Pegasus. Developed by the NSO Group, Pegasus can monitor your messages, record your calls, and even access your photos. There was allegation in 2018 that Pegasus spyware was used to hack Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s device.
Let’s look at a few ways you can keep your instant messaging secure.
1. Use end-to-end encryption: Use messaging apps that have end-to-end encryption enabled. When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, even the developer who designed the messaging app can’t access your messages. It can’t get any safer than that. However, it allows law enforcement to access the content of your messages, if the need arises.
Some popular messaging apps that provide end-to-end encryption are WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. Facebook does not provide end-to-end encryption on messenger.com and Facebook.com, but offers it through its Messenger app. It’s good to be aware of which app offer end-to-encryption so that you can make an informed decision about which app you want to use.
2. Turn on disappearing messages: If you want to take it up a notch and further protect your messages, you can turn on the disappearing messages feature. This enables you to set a time limit for the display on messages on devices. You can configure messages to be deleted after they are read by the recipient. This feature makes it impossible for hackers to read your messages, even after the physical theft of your device.
How to turn on disappearing message on WhatsApp:
- Open the WhatsApp chat.
- Tap Settings.
- Tap Disappearing Messages.
- Select 24 hours, seven days, or 90 days.
How to turn on disappearing message on iMessage:
- Open Settings.
- Tap Messages.
- Tap Keep messages.
- Select 30 days, one year, or forever.
3. Lock your conversations: To keep your conversations secure, you can also lock individual conversations. This will ensure that your discussions remain private, and safeguarded from prying eyes. You can either lock your messaging app or specific conversations. Activating this feature is particularly useful if multiple people use your phone, and you’re concerned that someone might read your chats. The option to lock individual chats is currently available only on WhatsApp.
4. Know where your chat backups are stored: If you choose to back up your chats, familiarize yourself with the storage location of your backups, and ensure they are encrypted.
Conversations on the messaging platform benefit from end-to-end encryption; however, they might become vulnerable if backed up on iCloud or Google Drive, potentially becoming accessible to cybercriminals. It’s wise to create an end-to-end encrypted backup for your chat backup that are stored in iCloud or Google Drive.
Texting is one of the most used modes of communication, and it’s imperative to keep your texts secure. You might view this as unnecessary—until your confidential bank information or photos are leaked! To thwart security issues, keep the points mentioned above in mind, and make wise choices regarding your online behavior.