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One tool you need if you're worried about your online privacy and security

One tool you need if you're worried about your online privacy and security

Privacy and security are huge issues these days. Just in the last few months we found out about two massive data breaches that took place at Yahoo.

Another frightening story in the headlines is how Russian hackers allegedly tried to get involved in the U.S. election process. We even told you how Russian hackers launched a massive phishing scheme after the election.

With everything that's going on, and cybercriminals lurking around every digital corner, it's a good idea to use a secure messaging app to keep your conversations private.

With that in mind, we're going to take a look at the messaging app Signal, from Open Whisper Systems.

Signal Private Messenger

One reason why Signal is more private than other messenger apps is the fact that all messages are encrypted end-to-end by default. The service also doesn't keep any user information, such as address books or messages, on its servers.

You might be wondering: What is end-to-end encryption? And, why do you need it?

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End-to-end encryption

First, encryption is an extremely secure way to protect your conversations from being heard or seen by anyone but you. It's a method that scrambles your data so, even if a hacker intercepts the data, they can't see anything but gibberish.

End-to-end encryption means the encryption extends from one end of the communication pathway to the other. It doesn't offer hackers any point to tap in and steal an unencrypted version of the message.

Signal makes it impossible for hackers, governments, telecoms and even Signal itself to read these conversations. Only the sender and recipient can see the messages. End-to-end encryption is designed to defeat attempts at surveillance or tampering because no third party can decode the communicated data.

The Signal app is so secure that other messenger services embedded its encryption system into their apps earlier this year. Google Allo, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp were able to embed Signal's open-source encryption system.

All of those other apps retain some customers' personal information on their servers. This is another reason Signal is more secure.

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Features on Signal

The Open Whisper Systems creative team says that privacy is possible, Signal makes it easy. Here are some of the app's features:

  • Say anything - Send high-quality group, text, picture, and video messages, all without SMS and MMS fees.
  • Open source - Signal is a free and open source, enabling anyone to verify its security by auditing the code. It's the only private messenger that uses open source peer-reviewed cryptographic protocols to keep your messages safe.
  • Be yourself - Use your existing phone number and address book. There are no separate logins, usernames, passwords, or PINs to manage or lose.
  • Stay private - The app creators cannot read your messages, and no on else can either. Everything is always end-to-end encrypted and painstakingly engineered in order to keep your communication safe.
  • Group chat - Signal allows you to create encrypted groups so you can have private conversations with all your friends at once. Not only are the messages encrypted, but the Signal server never has access to any group metadata such as the membership list, group titles or group icon.
  • Get organized - Archive functionality makes it easy to keep track of the conversations that matter to you right now.
  • Fast - The Signal protocol is designed to operate in the most constrained environment possible. Using Signal, messages are instantly delivered to friends.
  • Pay nothing - The development team is supported by community donations and grants. There are no advertisements, and it doesn't cost anything to use.

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The Signal Private Messenger app is available for iOS and Android gadgets. You can download Signal by clicking here for iOS, here for Android and it's also available here as a Google Chrome extension. The app is free on all platforms.

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