Security of personal correspondence has long stopped being an issue only movie characters care about. And it’s not only hackers that want to keep their text messages secret. Millions of smartphone users aren’t thrilled by the idea that their private photos, videos, and messages can become available to the public. It’s high time to see into the matter and find out what the best anonymous texting app for Android is!
Today, it’s positively impossible to imagine our life without IMs — instant messengers. You know, those nice little apps that allow you exchanging texts, videos and make voice calls. But did you ever stop to think about just how secure and private they really are? Convenient doesn’t always mean secure and sometimes, what we love works against us.
The choice of texting apps on the Google Play market is huge. However, people still prefer to use a few popular apps. But what if security and privacy are critically important? What if information leakage can cause severe damage to your private life, your professional career, your financial security?
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why we need extra privacy when using text apps and what makes these apps anonymous, shall we? And of course, I’ll offer a list of more secure alternatives to the popular Android apps you are already using.
Before answering this question, it’s important to make something perfectly clear. There is no app that will give you a 100% guarantee that your personal data will be absolutely secure, no matter what. And the reason for this is not the lack of technical instruments to provide such a level of security (nor it is the unwillingness of developers to care about your privacy). After all, the security of your personal data largely depends on you as a smartphone user. There’s always that pesky factor of human error. If you can’t be bothered to lock your smartphone screen and/or add a Touch ID feature, it’s not a technology problem; it’s you. If you use your texting app on multiple platforms and don’t try to protect any of them by passwords, any data leakage is your fault, not the app’s.
With that out of the way, let’s see what makes a private messenger private. There’s a simple answer to this. Any texting app that makes correspondences available only to a sender and his/her recipient and prevents them from being seen by any third parties can be considered anonymous.
But what facilitates this level of security? First of all, it’s something called E2EE (end-to-end encryption). As the name suggests, it’s a method of data encryption that allows decrypting and reading text messages only in case you are a sender or a recipient of such messages. This kind of encryption prevents storing your personal correspondences on any servers, which makes them unavailable to any third parties, whether it’s government authorities or hackers.
But the end-to-end encryption isn’t the only criterion to assess the level of anonymity a text app offers. Here are some other things you might want to look for:
We live in times when fast and easy communication means a lot. Regular text messages and calls just don’t cut it and more often than not, they are not as practical and fast as we want them to be. That’s why texting apps take such a huge share of the Android app market. Most of them are free, they are extremely easy to use and they can connect you with any of your contacts any time, anywhere. The majority of them allow not just exchange text messages but also media files and make video and voice calls.
However, there is always a chance that your correspondence might be compromised due to the actions of some third parties. Especially when you use your smartphone on the go, connecting it to public WiFi networks. Let’s face it; this happens a lot.
Texting apps that utilize end-to-end encryption help you make sure that no information transferred between you and your recipient can be accessed by anyone else. This way, no data can be stolen by hackers, business competition, ill-wishers, or government.
Sure, there is nothing that’s perfect under the moon and you will probably find some weaknesses and/or disadvantages in any texting app that exists on the market today. It’s all about what level of security you need and what you need it for.
Threema is a text messaging app with Swiss-based servers. Apart from exchanging texts, Threema users can also make voice calls, send voice messages and media files, as well as share their location. The app supports group chats for up to 50 participants.
All messages in this app are completely encrypted on users’ devices and not on Threema servers. All existing servers are more like commutation nodes: messages go through them but no data gets stored.
There is no need to provide any data that can help to identify you when you sign up: no phone number or email is required. When you start the app for the first time, it generates a user ID and a QR code based on that ID.
Threema doesn’t register who users contact and don’t store user contact lists on its servers. Any chat is encrypted, but there is still an option to use private chats.
Conversations is a Jabber/XMPP messenger launched in 2014 for Android. Yes, it might not be as well-known as many other texting apps. This probably has something to do with the fact that it costs $3 to download it on Google Play (or around $9 a year). But it still has a number of interesting features and I wouldn’t rule it out as a decent option.
Conversations is a pretty simple and rather reliable instant messenger and it doesn’t drain your battery like crazy, which is great to know. The app supports group chats and sharing media files. Besides, it has an open-source code anyone can find on GitHub.
Silent Phone is a product of Silent Circle, a company based in Switzerland and offers a number of products bringing the security of communications to a whole new level. They used to offer several apps for Android, including Silent Phone (for private voice calls), Silent Text (for secure texting), and Silent Contacts, which are now combined in the single Silent Phone app.
With Silent Phone, any data exchange happens through the company’s private network. That’s why you can talk only to members of the said network — people registered in the Silent Circle system who already have the app on their phones.
You can download Silent Phone for free, but you can only use it after you sign up for a Silent Circle account and pay a subscription fee of at least $10.
The subscription isn’t exactly cheap, for an Android texting app. However, if you do hold your privacy dear, it’s not an impossible amount to pay.
Signal private texting app was created and is still supported by a small group of American developers. Signal utilizes the encryption protocol that was made specifically for this app, Signal Protocol. Signal Protocol provides end-to-end encryption of voice and video calls, as well as regular text messages. Considering that Signal Protocol is now widely used by other messengers like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, I think it’s safe to suggest it’s pretty good.
But what makes Signal much more reliable than the above-mentioned popular apps is the fact that Signal uses the encryption protocol by default. Besides, Signal has open-source code and offers the option to delete all your messages and message history after a certain period of time. You can manually set a timer to delete them and they can’t be restored once they are removed.
Briar messenger might have slipped under your radar. Yes, it might not be as popular as the ones mentioned above, but it’s not a bad option at all. The app is based on the decentralized mesh network technology, can work equally well via Bluetooth or WiFi connection (but in the latter case it will connect to Tor).
The app has an open-source code and does not store any information on its servers. All your messages are stored on your phone only, in an encrypted form. Unfortunately, Briar doesn’t have the option of voice calls. However, there is a possibility to use encrypted group chats, which is nice.
Riot is another less known private messenger based on Matrix communication protocol. But make no mistake: just like Briar, it definitely deserves your attention. Unlike Briar, it can be used on multiple platforms.
Even though it hardly makes the app unique, Riot.im is versatile enough and offers lots of possibilities for communication, including text messaging, voice and video calls, and file sharing. You can also attach images in chats straight from your clipboard.
Chat encryption in Rito.im is optional. You can activate it or switch it off whenever you choose. There’s a lock icon to indicate how secure your chats are at the moment. When you are in a private group chat, you’ll be notified in case there is a user whose devices were not authorized by other users.
When it comes to personal data security, regular text messaging apps just can’t compare to apps that offer privacy ensured by the end-to-end encryption. Some will require a small payment for some extra functionality, many others will allow you communicating with whomever you want free of charge. Regardless, you can use them any time, in any place, whether it’s on the go or in the comfort of your home.
As always, it completely depends on you which messenger you should use. But remember that security is the balance between technological capacity and your actions as a user. No matter how advanced the encryption and privacy features might be, they can be rendered useless unless you follow the basic rules of digital hygiene.