Even though WhatsApp has tried to make its messaging app safer, there is still a lot to do. But it will be easier if you use Signal. So what exactly makes Signal more secure for communication?
More than 2 billion people use WhatsApp every month, which makes it the king of instant messaging. Behind them are Facebook Messenger with 1,300 million, the Asian apps WeChat (1,225 million) and QQ (595 million), and Telegram (550 million) and Snapchat, which are further away (528). But there is one more player who wants to stand out. Here is the Signal. It only had 40 million users at the beginning of the year, but it is getting more and more popular.
Already in 2014, Edward Snowden and the Electronic Frontier Foundation said they were in favor of it. But Signal’s popularity has grown a lot since 2019, when the European Union decided to use Signal instead of WhatsApp as a secure messaging app. This includes everyone who works for a European institution, like the European Commission. Even news outlets that only cover news from Europe have been asked to switch to Signal.
If WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, or Apple Messages are good enough for you, that’s great. But if you’re still interested and want to try Signal, we’ve put together a list of tasks and tips to help you get started with this messaging app in a safe and private way.
How does Signal make things safer?
But let’s break it up. Why should I care about Signal if everyone I know is on WhatsApp? Even if you don’t think the conversations you have there are important, the information you share may be seen by others.
Signal has several privacy-focused features that you can use for work or to feel safer talking about anything with your contacts. On its official page, you can find out more about it.
- Encryption from end to end.
- The security protocol is yours and is open source.
- No advertising.
If you can’t do the same things with Signal as you can with WhatsApp or Telegram, all of these security features are useless. In that sense, this app gives you the following:
- Send messages, voice notes, photos, videos, GIFs, files…
- Calls and video calls.
- Stickers with codes.
- There are group chats and one-on-one chats.
- Block people who bother you.
- It can be used on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, the iPhone, and the iPad.
Check Signal’s security figures
Each Signal chat has its own security cipher that lets you check that your messages and calls are safe. You can check that number by going into a one-on-one chat. Then we click on the header of the chat and choose See security figures.
You can use a QR code, compare the number code visually or audibly, or use the Share icon to copy it to the clipboard to check with your contact.
If a chat has been checked, the chat header will have a checkmark. We can look at each conversation by tapping the button for that conversation under View security figures.
Even though you can take a screenshot or photo, Signal lets you send messages that disappear over time. This is not a perfect security measure, though, because you can still take a screenshot or photo. Expiring messages. The difference between these messages is that they have a countdown clock. You can set the time interval to be anywhere between 5 seconds and 1 week.
To make messages disappear, you have to go into a specific chat, click on the name of the contact or the chat settings, and then click on Disappearing messages. You can choose how long the messages you send will stay around for and then start sending them.
You can turn this option off at any time. Obviously, you can’t mix messages that stay and messages that go away. In other words, you’ll use this option more to talk to someone than to send a simple message.
Signal screen lock
You can lock not only the screen of your iPhone or Android, but also the Signal app itself. One more thing to keep people from listening in on your conversations. This option is also built into Telegram, for example.
So, you will have to unlock your phone every time you want to use it. But when you open Signal, you will also have to unlock. Go to the Signal settings and turn on the screen lock to use this option. You will also need to set up the time between blocks.
The lock “uses your phone’s PIN, passkey, or biometric authentication, such as your fingerprint, TouchID, or FaceID.”
A cool thing to know so that your conversations on Signal don’t leave Signal. Stop your friends from taking a picture of the chat without your permission.
You can turn on this safety feature in the Privacy section of Signal’s settings. There, you can choose to protect your screen. If someone takes a screenshot after it has been turned on, a blue screen will show up above the text.
Emergency history clear
Like any good messaging app, Signal lets us delete the content we’ve made, such as messages, calls, and attachments. Come on, this is called history, right?
If you care a lot about your privacy and Signal’s security features aren’t enough for you, you can choose to delete the history every once in a while so that your conversations don’t stay on record. At least on your device.
We go to the profile in Signal. Then we go to Data and storage > Manage storage. The last step is to click Delete message history. You’ll need to confirm by clicking the Delete button.
In any case, you can delete one message or chat at a time. It’s a less drastic solution that will let you see what you’re getting rid of. Just touch and hold the message or chat, and the Delete button will show up.
Face blurring in photos
One interesting feature of Signal is that it can blur the faces of people in the photos you share. A way to keep those people’s identities secret.
To use this option, choose the picture you want to send, click the icon at the top of the screen that goes with it, and you’ll see the change right away. The process is done on its own. And if it doesn’t do a good job of finding faces, you can do it by hand.