Stop using SMS for private messages

We all need to up our online security game, which is why I read a recent article by Zak Doffman, a cybersecurity expert, with great interest. He has advised his followers to stop using Facebook Messenger and switch to WhatsApp for security reasons. This is interesting because Facebook also owns WhatsApp, but the difference between the app and Messenger is one of security.

WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption. It’s so secure that as Doffman says, “lawmakers actually want weaknesses introduced to help them investigate crimes.” And if you think that perhaps Apple iMessage and SMS—including Google Messages –are safe, then Doffman says, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Most messaging from your devices is encrypted, but the security depends on who holds the encryption keys. Doffman states, “When you end-to-end encrypt data or messages, keys are only held by the two (or multiple) endpoints of that link—you and the person you’re messaging, for example.” So, with WhatsApp, it can’t read what you send, which is the bonus, and it can be trusted to keep your messages safe and secure.

By contrast, Facebook’s Messenger is not end-to-end encrypted by default. Even Facebook recommended using WhatsApp instead of Messenger. Why don’t they fix the problem with Messenger you may ask? Well, apparently it’s technically complex.

SMS messages are another issue. Did you know “When you send an SMS, while it might be secure between your phone and your network, once there it can be easily intercepted and collected?” This makes SMS child’s play for hackers who can target senders and recipients. On the other hand, SMS is available on every single phone in the world, hence it’s popularity. However, it is used for “longer messages, MMS attachments, financial details, private data, sensitive information,” and that is where problems lie.

Whichever service you use, whether Apple or Android, there are SMS messages you will need to still receive—one time security codes, for example. But beyond texts from service providers, with security codes etc, you should not use SMS for your own private messages – stick to WhatsApp, or if you want even more security, use Signal, which is the app of choice for many working in the Cybersecurity sector.

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