by Saheli Sen Gupta

Is the WhatsApp encryption really that big a deal?

Apr 06, 2016
AndroidCloud SecurityCompliance

Encryption in messaging apps isn’t anything new – iMessage has it and so does Telegram. Wouldn’t you say that WhatsApp is actually quite late to the party?

Perhaps it’s the wide popularity or the “one billion users” tag, but WhatsApp finally rolling out its end-to-end encryption to all its users has been all over the news. However, while you are rejoicing, please note that several messaging apps have been offering end-to-end encryption for a while. Here are five that we liked:

1. Signal – Probably the most popular encrypted messaging app, Signal is used by the likes of Edward Snowden. With 50 lakh downloads on the Google Play Store alone, it is free for both iOS and Android. Launched on July 29, 2014, this app lets you send secure messages and make Internet voice calls with your existing phone number without even setting up an account.

2. Telegram – A cloud-based messenger, Telegram became popular because of the app’s emphasis on security and encryption. It has been downloaded about a 100 million times from the Google Play Store and is most popular in Iran with 20 million users there alone. The app reportedly conveys 15 billion messages globally in a day and has a ‘secret chat’ feature using which users can set a self-destruct timer in addition to the end-to-end encryption.

3. Threema – Made in Switzerland, Threema is available on iOS and Android for $3, and on Windows for $2. In addition to end-to-end encryption, each user is assigned a random ID that isn’t necessarily connected to an email address or phone number, providing even more privacy than Signal and Telegram. It’s been downloaded 5 million times on the Google Play Store.

4. Wickr Me – Wickr Me is perhaps the fun cousin of Signal with features like stickers and photo filters, but it is a secure messaging app at heart. One step ahead of the others, Wickr Me allows anonymous users—so even the makers don’t know who the users are. The app has been downloaded 5 million times on the Play Store and supports about 27 languages.

5. Cyber Dust – Cyber Dust offers its users two kinds of messages: Private ‘Dusts’ and broadcast ‘Blasts’, which are both encrypted and are never stored. It also prevents screenshots and disappears within 100 seconds of you reading it, or within 24 hours if you haven’t opened it. A little different from the others on the list, it also lets you follow people and create groups.

Apart from the ones listed above, apps like iMessage, ChatSecure, Surespot, Retroshare, Line and Cyphr also offer message encryption. So, while WhatsApp’s announcement has been widely publicized—maybe a bit too much—it’s not that revolutionary after all.