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On the surface, it might seem like your personal texts and instant messages are private, but that’s far from the truth. When you don’t encrypt your messages, the companies who create the apps and third parties like government officials can read your private messages.
Encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp make it difficult for anyone else to eavesdrop on your conversations. While VPNs do a great job hiding your IP address, even the best VPNs won’t help if you’re using a messaging app that stores identifiable metadata on its server. They do, however, cover any gaps where messaging apps don’t encrypt. Keep reading to learn more about how encrypted messaging works and our top messaging apps for security and privacy.
How Encrypted Messaging Works
Encrypted messaging is implemented by what’s known as end-to-end encryption (E2EE). End-to-end encryption occurs at the device level. It only allows the sender and receiver of a specific conversation to read the messages they send to each other. In other words, no third parties will be able to pick up any of the messages you send or receive. Encrypted messaging also helps with blocking hackers and potential cyber-attacks.
Our Top Private Messaging Apps
Released in 2014, Signal is an excellent option for mobile users looking for an extra layer of security. The app gives you the ability to message and send files to your contacts without PIN codes or login credentials. It’s also highly user-friendly compared to a lot of its competitors.
- Supports end-to-end encryption with its own protocol
- Open source technology
- Option to create a password to open the app
- Must provide a phone number to sign up
- Might have to resort to a burner phone for total anonymity
Wickr is essentially a more secure version of Snapchat. The app allows you to send text, image, video, and voice messages to other Wickr users, all of which delete themselves after a specific time. Wickr also has strong encryption and deletes all metadata and geotags. You can even choose how long you want to save your messages before they destruct.
- Robust security features
- Disables screenshots
- Smaller user base
- Won’t sync across multiple devices
WhatsApp is by far the most widely used messenger app across the globe. Since 2016, WhatsApp has used Signal’s end-to-end encryption on all its messages, even in group chats. Its ease of use also allows users to send voice messages, images, and videos.
- Extremely easy to use
- Nearly impossible for hackers to decrypt any personal messages
- Bought out by Facebook in 2014, which raises concerns about how encrypted the app is
- Some additional security flaws in the past
Threema is a highly secure messaging app that has been audited multiple times. You don’t even need to provide any of your personal information to create an account. Plus, Threema gives its users the ability to exchange contact information with a QR code to maintain anonymity.
- Can use the app anonymously
- Open-source protocols (aka, more secure)
- Not super popular in English speaking countries yet
- Collects a lot of metadata
Like Signal and WhatsApp, Telegram allows users to link their phone number to their account to send fast, anonymous messages. Unlike its competitors, Telegram, in its own way, is turning into a social media platform. The app, in other words, lets large groups and broadcasts instantly reach millions of followers.
- “Secret Chats” feature encrypts your messages
- an participate in group chats with up to 200,000 users
- End-to-end encryption is not a default feature (you need to turn it on yourself)
- Leaky metadata in the past
Price: Free, or up to $9.50/mo for an enterprise account
Wire allows you to sync your encrypted messages across multiple devices with ease. Its ease of use on all your devices will enable you to divide work messages from personal ones seamlessly. The app also uses open-source code and typically appeals to business users as it offers enterprise accounts.
- Offers end-to-end encryption on all message types, including videos
- Self-destructing messages and password protection
- Collects metadata
- Keeps server-side logs for up to 72 hours
Viber is owned by Rakuten and directly competes with Skype. With nearly 260 million active users per month, Viber is a well-known private messaging service with end-to-end encryption.
- Large user base
- Color-coded lock icon to show how secure messages are in real-time
- Supports self-destructive messaging
- Costs money to communicate with non-Viber users
- Only supports E2EE for one-on-one chats
OTR is a free and secure messaging service by Jabber. The platform works by stacking two protocols on top of each other to enable an open-source, decentralized platform. You also have the option to download Tor Messenger and Chat Secure on your mobile device since they both support Jabber.
- Option to create an account anonymously
- One of the most secure messaging apps on the market
- Not the best mobile experience
- acks basic features like sending attachments
Formerly known as Cyber Dust, Dust has multiple security and encryption features. The app is also designed to keep your direct messages in RAM instead of your device’s storage. It also has a self-destruct feature for your messages as well as a privacy-watchdog feature.
- Informs you when someone takes a screenshot of your message
- Doesn’t display usernames when you open a message
- Doesn’t update its features regularly
- Sometimes deletes messages right after you send or receive them, which can be confusing
Price: Freemium model
Voxer takes a unique approach to messaging apps by revolving around voice messages. Think of Voxer as your modern-day walkie-talkie. Users have the option to listen to messages live in the app or as a voicemail later on.
- Supports group chats of up to 500 people
- Offers E2EE with the Signal protocol
- More robust security features require payment
- Encrypted messaging is not a default feature
Best VPNs to Pair With Messaging Apps
Messaging apps with E2EE are great for protecting your private messages, but that’s right where your protection stops. Pairing a private messaging app with a VPN will ensure your messages are protected and your location is hidden. Take a look at the top three VPNs we recommend you pair with a messaging app below:
NordVPN is a highly secure and user-friendly VPN. With its military-grade encryption, NordVPN is ideal for browsing the web anonymously and combatting any censorship restrictions. It also offers unlimited data as well as a massive list of high-speed servers across the globe. You can try NordVPN today with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost is a fast, secure, easy-to-use VPN that pairs exceptionally well with a private messaging app. It has over 7,200 servers to choose from and great additional features such as an ad blocker feature and data compression. CyberGhost not only provides ease of use but has excellent customer service if you run into any snags. You can try CyberGhost today with an extended 45-day money-back guarantee.
IPVanish is a secure VPN that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It has zero data leaks and allows you to connect to an unlimited amount of devices. Plus, IPVanish has blazing fast speeds and over 40,000 dynamic IP addresses to choose from. Like the private messaging apps we listed, IPVanish has end-to-end encryption and DNS leak protection settings. IPVanish’s 1-year plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you decide to give it a try.