Monday 19 September 2016

Protect Your Texting Privacy For Free

One of the items routinely intercepted and logged are our text messages. This provides a rich source of data to various eavesdropping entities, possibly including your work if they have provided you with a phone, or required you to install some management software to use your phone with work systems.

To avoid this I installed Signal by Whispersystems. Signal is a free app that will encrypt your messages to/from other Signal users. It has the added bonus of being able to also act as your default text messaging app, so you only have one place to check for all your standard messaging needs.

Signal can import your current texts from whatever app they are in, as well as your contacts, so you can continue to text people as you normally would. 

The bonus comes when you text another Signal user; the app automatically knows they have Signal and end-to-end encrypts the information, even the staff at Whispersystems can't read your messages.

As an added bonus, messages between Signal users use your phone's data rather than incurring texting charges. If you're connected to WiFi this means you have unlimited free communication between Signal users.

Signal will also support sending attachments or conducting video calls, all encrypted and using a data connection.

Inviting your contacts to Signal is exceptionally simple, the app pops up an "Invite to Signal" box when you select a contact that isn't already using it. You just select the box and it pre-populates a message to the recipient explaining you use Signal and offers a link to install it.

Signal is available for Android and iPhone devices (Sorry Blackberry die-hards), installation is fast and painless. As a messaging app it's as intuitive and good as the app you're probably using now.

But HomeGeek, how do you know it's secure?

As far as I know Signal is the only open-source messaging app out there. This means all it's code is posted on Github, available to anyone for inspection and it routinely goes through peer review.

I don't have any great secrets to hide, but I'm also not a fan of giving personal information to entities I know little about and control even less. With that in mind I decided I wanted some enhanced privacy on my texts, at least where I could have it.

If you're skeptical that your digital information is being routinely monitored or logged I suggest watching "Citizen Four".  Whatever your personal stance on Edward Snowden's actions, it is eye-opening.

It's free, so what have you got to lose, except maybe being monitored?

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

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