WhatsApp vs Signal: What’s the Most Secure Messaging App?

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WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. But after an update to the WhatsApp privacy policy made headlines for sharing data with Facebook, millions have been looking for more secure alternatives.

On January 7, 2021, Elon Musk tweeted “Use Signal”. This caused up to 50,000 people per day to download the Signal app.

In this article, we compare the Signal app to WhatsApp to determine the most private and secure messaging app.

What’s Wrong with Using WhatsApp?

The primary reason people are searching for WhatsApp alternatives is the onerous privacy policies of WhatsApp. Users must agree to EVERYTHING in these policies before they can use the app.

Below we highlight some additional reasons you should replace WhatsApp with a more secure and privacy-oriented app, like Signal.

WhatsApp Vulnerabilities

Even though WhatsApp encrypts all forms of communication on its platform, there is a way to bypass the encryption and read someone’s messages.

WhatsApp does NOT encrypt local or cloud-based backups. WhatsApp spy apps can use these unencrypted backups to access the contents of messages sent from one device to another. In some cases, this software can be used without accessing the device itself.

Distrust of Facebook

Facebook has a long history of not respecting the privacy of its users. Facebook has a history of collecting data. In 2017, EU regulators acted against Facebook for sharing WhatsApp users’ phone numbers with its’ Facebook social network to improve the performance of advertisements. This was a clear breach of data protection regulations.

Facebook is determined to introduce advertisements to WhatsApp. While recent reports show the plan has been scrapped, it is not clear what will happen when Facebook eventually merges Instagram messaging, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

What is the Signal App?

Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service developed by Signal Messenger, LLC and the Signal Technology Foundation. Signal users can send one-to-one text messages or group text messages. This includes images, voice notes, files, and videos. Signal can also function as an SMS app on Android devices.

Signal uses cell phone numbers to identify and secure communication between users with end-to-end encryption. The app also includes a feature that allows users to identify the number themselves and contact the integrity of the data channel.

What is End-to-End Encryption?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a secure communication channel that prevents any access to data while it’s transferred from one device to another.

In E2EE encrypts data on the sender’s device. This data can only be decrypted by the intended recipient. End-to-end encryption prevents law enforcement, mobile carriers, or ISPs from reading or tampering with the contents of the data.

How Is Signal Different from WhatsApp?

Signal and WhatsApp both encrypt all messages using end-to-end encryption technology.

The main difference between Signal and WhatsApp is that Signal encrypts all message metadata. Metadata contains the sender, recipient, and timestamp information. WhatsApp does NOT encrypt metadata.

Signal uses a technology called Sealed Sender to prevent anyone, even Signal, from seeing who sends or receives a message. You can learn more about Sealed Sender here.

Benefits of Using Signal Over WhatsApp?

WhatsApp notified its users that the application’s 3,800-word privacy policy and its 5,000-word terms of service were being updated to include information about processing users’ data and the ability for businesses to use Facebook services for managing chats. On the other hand, Signal has been focused on privacy, which is something that many people feel it’s been compromised with the new WhatsApp updates on privacy policy which caused an outrage on the internet.

Many people have declared that they are switching to Signal as their main messaging app and leaving WhatsApp. And even Elon Musk encouraged people in his tweets to switch to Signal instead, many people are following him and switching to Signal as a WhatsApp alternative.

 In terms of privacy and security, Signal is hands-down better than WhatsApp. However, it’s more about your community and your communication circle, if everyone is using WhatsApp then you will find yourself using it as well. But after all, what is more important than your privacy?

Signal and Privacy

The Signal app is built with privacy in mind. The app offers world class encryption. It doesn’t store your data, so it isn’t susceptible to hackers and surveillance software.

Signal offers extended onscreen privacy options. This includes:

  • blank notification pop-ups
  • app locks
  • disappearing messages
  • face-blurring
  • anti-surveillance tools

Signal Has More Up-to-Date Security Features

Signal is a pioneer when it comes to new privacy features.

Disappearing Messages

The disappearing messaging feature that allows you to send a text message that automatically disappears after a specific period of time. This feature has existed in Signal since 2016. WhatsApp has tested this feature, but never rolled it out.

Incognito Keyboard

The Incognito keyboard prevents the Gboard keyboard from sending your keystroke history to Google. Gboard is an enhanced keyboard app in the Google Play Store.

Signal is Open Source

All the Signal source code is published for anyone to check and use under an AGPLv3 license for the server and a GPLv3 license for clients. Meaning that anyone can see what’s happening inside it.

Signal has Less Potential for Hidden Vulnerabilities

WhatsApp is more inviting to malicious participants. However, because it is code-based, it takes a longer time for any dangerous vulnerability to be noticed. This is normal with any application, as they all sooner or later suffer from vulnerabilities. Signal has managed to resolve many of these vulnerabilities on its own.

You Can Run Your Own Signal Server

This is another advantage of open source: you get to play with it! Still, it is not recommended as you probably will not need or even want a Signal server of your own as they are made for mass communication platforms and it’s not intended to scale down currently.

Final Thoughts

Having a main application to communicate with your friends, family, and loved ones is very important in our time. However, our privacy should never be compromised while we all have private conversations and data. So, it is very important to favor privacy over other features that might be included in other apps.

About the Author

Jason has over 25 years in the information and internet security industry. He is passionate about smartphones, gadgets, and technology. He also got a solid background in programming and software.  This includes Python, C++, app development and more.

jason thompson