Not All Messaging Is Equally Secure
It’s not recommended to send sensitive information in a message. After all, you never really know who’s on the other end. However, not all messaging is the same: Should you need to message a contact securely, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right platform. Luckily, not only are there plenty of options, you probably use one of them every day.
When possible, the most secure choice for messaging is a service that is end-to-end encrypted (E2EE). In short, that means only your device and the devices you send the message to can read the messages. If someone tries to intercept the message on an outside device, that message will appear as a jumble of nonsense, a string of code unrecognizable from the text you sent. Only the approved devices have the ”keys” to decrypt it.
Some messaging apps are E2EE by default, and are protected out of the gate. iPhones messaging other iPhones use iMessage, which appear as blue bubbles on those platforms. iMessage is E2EE, which means all blue messages you send from iPhone to iPhone are secure. Google’s RCS, an iMessage-like platform, also offers E2EE. If you’re messaging another Android device with RCS, you can rest assured your messages cannot be read by prying devices.
Some third-party services also offer E2EE. Signal is the go-to for secured and private messaging, as E2EE is standard and default, as is WhatsApp, and Telegram is another popular options, even though you need to enable E2EE yourself. Options like Facebook Messenger have the option to use E2EE, but it’s not standard and it’s a bit of a pain to use, as the option is baked into a feature called ”secret conversation.”
The major platform that doesn’t offer E2EE in any form is SMS, the standard text message. While SMS is still widely used, especially to message between iPhones and Androids, it is not encrypted. As such, it is not a secure messaging platform, and should not be used to message any sensitive information.
Again, you shouldn’t make a habit of messaging others sensitive information. While E2EE ensures devices not included in the chat can’t access your messages, that doesn’t stop users with access to the device in question from reading what you sent.