Message encryption is something we often hear of in movies. However, there are increasing amounts of mass surveillance occurring in more countries, and one of the worst being the NSA (National Security Agency) in the USA.
With this comes watching what users do online, calls and text messages that are sent, and much more.
When you send a regular text message, you leave the door wide open for any governing agency to see and record what you say, or you receive from anyone else.
The worst thing is even hackers can see these messages if they have the tools to do so.
Once you use encrypted messaging, they use end-to-end encryption for users who send messages. Thus, they prevent anyone from monitoring conversations by text and seeing what the messages contain.
You can find that some of the more exotic encrypted messaging apps can also provide encryption for calls as well as texting. You can even get secure encrypted emails, and you’d never know that encrypting an email was the same as writing a regular one.
Here you can learn all about how encryption works and how you can use it for privacy and security.
What Does End to End Encrypted Mean?
In the basic form, encryption means to encode information so that another person isn’t able to read it. The concept goes back thousands of years, and you may remember it from school. You can define encrypted as 5=S, 12=E, 2=T, 9=C, 22=R. (5, 12, 9, 22, 12, 2 = Secret).
Nowadays, email encryption is far more complicated than mere numbers. You will use what you know as a cipher, which converts information into a jumble of characters, numbers, and letters.
To de-cipher any messages, you need a key that will translate these back into a readable format. With this, you currently have two forms of encryption, Asymmetric (Public Key) and Symmetric (Private Key).
You can see a similarity with these, although they do vary in how the steps are carried out.
Public Key Encryption
Public Key Encryption uses the recipient’s public key, and a private key, which matches the public key.
Users can send messages encrypted using public keys, which will then be decrypted by the recipient. The matching private key gives them the authority to do this.
Such an encryption method, allows senders to “unlock” mailboxes to place messages into them.
However, they cannot look at other end-to-end encrypted messages in the mailbox, because the messages are only available for decryption by using the recipient’s private keys.
Private Key Encryption
Using this method still needs two keys, one for delivery, and one for receipt. What differs is that the keys are similar and allow both parties to encrypt or decrypt information.
How Do I Read an Encrypted Message?
Without an encrypted text app to allow you to do this, it is impossible to read these encrypted messages.
It can sound complicated, yet encrypted messaging is easier than you think as the messaging apps do all the work for you. You may even be using such an app and are not aware that your messages are already encrypted.
iOS and macOS users can use the ‘Messages’ app that comes with the device. If you either operating system, then you are already using encrypted messages.
To users, the apps appear easy to use, yet as soon as you send, their message will be jumbled beyond recognition for anyone trying to view the message.
WhatsApp is another such app, which sends messages via end-to-end encryption. This app is available on most platforms and used by children to prevent parents from seeing what they are saying to friends.
Can You Encrypt Text Messages?
Here is a quick example of the best way to encrypt text messages using any of the listed apps.
The Signal app offer end-to-end encryption on Windows/ macOS, Android, and iOS, as well as Linux.
It allows you to send individual or group messages, photos, videos, and much more inside the app. End-to-end encryption makes sure your messages are secure and can be read by the person they are intended for and no one else.
Signal uses a secure infrastructure, and the app encryption is on the OTR protocol comprising AES-256, Curve25519, as well as HMAC-SHA256.
Being free, and more importantly, with no rights reserved it is open-source. Any third parties, even law enforcement can audit the code to be sure it does offer what it says, and there are no holes in the code or any back doors.
This instant messaging app also provides end-to-end encryption for your messages. These can include content-expiring messaging, video, pictures, and files attached.
The Wickr Me app runs on most operating systems and includes the following platforms. Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, as well as macOS.
The great thing with this app being you can set an expiration time for your encrypted messages. These you can sync across multiple devices such as your phone, tablet, and PC. Besides this, you send each message with a new key.
Such is this that no users outside Wickr users in the conversations can de-cipher anything. Signing up is secure and doesn’t need any email address or phone number.
As we saw earlier, you also have WhatsApp and Apple Messages, although this will only work for users who use Apple devices.
WhatsApp is one of a few Facebook Message apps. However, there is a group of users who are not keen on WhatsApp being owned by Facebook. The same can be said for the group who look for Google alternatives for their services.
It is well known that the social media giant Facebook harvests user data, and as they own WhatsApp, there is no knowing what goes on behind the scenes, even if nothing has ever been proven. (Learn how to delete your Facebook account)
Are Text Messages Secure
Using these apps is a great way to tighten up your messaging; however, one of the best ways to make all your communications secure is the use of a VPN.
Premium VPN’s use even tighter security than these apps and surpass what many law enforcement services use as standard.