Mobile phone users are becoming more savvy to the potential security risks of standard, unencrypted text messaging and wary of government intrusion into everyday communications. Some consumers require encrypted phone calls for information-sensitive business requirements and others just don't like the idea of others prying into their personal lives. Gizmag takes a look at a sampling of the apps available for iOS and Android (and sometimes desktop) to encrypt mobile communications, both text messaging and phone calls.
TextSecure lets you text everyone in your contact list, not just those who use the app Wickr messages disappear after a configurable amount of time and screenshots are disabled by default CoverMe gives users a vault of secure media to add into texts GliphMe is a feature of Gliph that allows for anonymous conversations over the web to reach ...
These options may not be for running a coup in a war-torn country (though Open Whisper Systems offered its products early to protesters in Egypt), or be compliant with the United States' Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (though some of these apps may be and may specifically claim to be so). There are also separate options more appropriate for businesses, with prices to match, but for the ordinary user who’s concerned about man-in-the-middle attacks in coffee shops, or government intrusion on an "everyday" level, these apps could be enough.
We also don’t claim to evaluate the security algorithms used with each app, though most have fairly detailed FAQs for those wanting more information and many have open source algorithms.
One should also distinguish between secure messages that are archived for users to access later, as you usually expect with texts, and ephemeral messages specifically not stored in the cloud or on servers and that will disappear locally after a set amount of time. Some of these apps offer both, and some have settings to change how long messages last. Most apps specifically only allow you to message or call other users of the app, but even if an app allows you to message or call your whole contact list, the communication will not be secure end-to-end.
Keep in mind that no app can get around physical security. If you choose not to set a passcode, then someone with physical access to your phone can read your messages, or if you send racy photos with an app that disables screenshots, the end party can always circumvent that more clumsily with an ordinary camera. In other words, prudence is still necessary if you’re truly concerned with privacy. That caveat in place, let’s take a look at six text messaging apps and two phone apps that will help you secure your mobile communications.