What to know about the secure messaging app
Signal Messenger App is a secure, encrypted messaging app that’s available for free for iOS and Android devices, and there’s a desktop app, too.
What Is Signal Messenger?
The first thing to know about Signal Messenger App is that it’s similar in function to WhatsApp. That’s because Brian Acton, who founded WhatsApp, was a co-founder of the Signal app. The two apps also use an open-source encryption protocol that Acton developed, but that’s about where the similarities end.
Signal Messenger App is available for Android, iPhone, and iPad. There’s also a Signal desktop client for Windows, Mac, and Linux. To join, all you need is a phone number. It’s free.
The user experience of Signal Messenger App is just like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other popular chat apps. It’s a messaging app with features like one-to-one messages, groups, stickers, photos, file transfers, voice calls, and even video calls. You can have group chats with up to 1000 people and group calls with up to eight people.
Signal isn’t owned by a big tech company. Instead, Signal is developed by a non-profit foundation and is funded by donations. Unlike Facebook, Signal’s owners aren’t even trying to make money. Signal doesn’t try to gather a bunch of data on you or show you advertisements.
While Signal has a very familiar interface, it’s very different under the hood. Your conversations in Signal are end-to-end encrypted, which means that not even the owners of Signal can monitor them. Only the people in the conversation can see them.
Signal is also completely open-source. The source code for the project’s client apps and server software is available on GitHub.
Signal is a free, secure messaging app that lets you send messages, images, and files, have phone conversations and chat individually or in groups in a secure way that’s nearly untraceable. That’s because Signal uses end-to-end encryption and uses only your phone number as an identifier. Signal says they collect as little data about you as possible.
— Signal (@signalapp) January 5, 2021
For example, when a federal grand jury subpoenaed Signal to provide data about two users in 2016, the only data Signal could provide was the account creation date and the last connection date. Signal does not collect any of the data other messaging apps and services collect: no messages, groups, contacts, profile information, or anything else. No collected data means nothing to share with others.
For you, this means that Signal also doesn’t have access to any messages or data that you share. The only people that see that data are you and whomever you’re messaging.
What Else Sets Signal Messaging Apart?
While the Signal app’s security is the driving factor that pushes people to download and use it, there’s something else that sets Signal apart from other messaging apps and paves the way for the secure, private messaging system it is. Signal is an independent, non-profit organization.
Being a non-profit means that Signal isn’t ad-supported, so the company has no incentive to sell your data. Donations from users support them, so you never have to deal with ads, trackers, or other interruptions that are not only annoying but can also put your privacy at risk.
Why Is Signal Messenger App Suddenly So Popular?
Signal’s end-to-end encryption is its big feature. That’s why so many people are using Signal—because they’re concerned about privacy. At the start of 2021, it’s been endorsed by everyone from Elon Musk to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and has shot to the top of Apple and Google’s app store charts.
But Signal didn’t come from nowhere—it was founded in 2013. It’s a widely respected piece of software that’s long been used by privacy advocates and other activists. Edward Snowden endorsed Signal back in 2015.
Digging In to Signal Encryption
Signal has a proprietary encryption protocol that protects messages from end-to-end. From the time you create it until it is delivered, read, and deleted, the recipient, the message, and any attachments remain encrypted.
Think of it this way, when you create a message using the Signal Messenger App, the data is scrambled up into an unrecognizable form. The only way to unscramble it is with a private encryption key, which only the message’s recipient has. Much like a physical key that works in a door lock, that key is specific to the recipient. Unlike a physical key, however, it works only with one lock.
No one else, not even Signal Messenger App, can see or collect data about the information that’s in the message you’re sending. And suppose you’re concerned about someone else seeing the message on the recipient’s device. In that case, Signal even offers a self-destructing message type, which will destroy any message you send after a specified amount of time.
Finally, everything in the Signal Messenger App is stored locally on your device. Nothing goes into the cloud. Nothing goes onto Signal’s servers. The only way your messages can be compromised on Signal is if your device is compromised.