In the post-Snowden world, concern that our nude pics, and conversations are no longer private has brought messaging security to the forefront of the IM debate. Facebook’s recent announcement that it’s rolling out end-to-end encryption on it’s Messenger App follows in the footsteps of virtually every other player in the IM market. Here’s why.
Your Whatsapp data is in Facebook’s hands now
Whatsapp’s confrontation with the Brazilian government over the company’s refusal to submit user data, they argue they can’t even access because of end to end encryption bolstered it’s reputation for taking privacy seriously.
The company’s prestige has taken a blow, however, as Whatsapp’s new parent company, Facebook, announced that it would be sharing data in order to better target ads. Moreover, the fact that messages are stored on 3rd party servers for online backups goes against claims of full encryption made to it’s 1 billion users. Even the giant Facebook isn’t hack-proof, however.
Hacking is now easier than ever
Hackers have easy access to accounts thanks to the amount of private data they can collect. They no longer need prior information on users to exploit back doors into popular apps like Facebook Messenger. An entire industry specialises in altering private messages which courts consider legally binding.
Other apps fair no better for security. Google’s Allo Chat, for instance, has encryption toggled to ‘off’ by default. It also uses machine learning to adapt to user behaviour. These compromises in the name of convenience affect privacy. Let alone the possibility of government spying.
NSA backdoors make everything public
The revelation that terrorists used encrypted messaging apps like Whatsapp and Telegram to plan last year’s attacks in Paris and San Bernardino has served as a pretext for government agencies such as the NSA to push for the use of backdoors in messaging apps to circumvent encryption.
Apps claiming to be encrypted, yet still store user data on servers put their customers at an increased risk of spying. These backdoors can also be accessed by more sinister regimes.
Compromised apps are dangerous for journalists
User privacy is high up the priority list for messaging app users in countries with authoritarian regimes. For journalists working in Iran, or pro-democracy activists in Russia, compromised data could have far worse consequences than NSA agents seeing their dick pics. Cases of government hackers compromising secure messaging apps get reported on frequently. These breaches cost the lives of many journalists, dissidents, and opposition figures.
IM app shoppers who value anonymity and security should be on the lookout for apps that offer end to end encryption by default. Apps that store any data on 3rd party servers don’t count. Finding an app with these attributes without compromising on quality and convenience would be ideal.