by James A. Martin

3 Snapchat Alternatives for Self-Destructing Messages

Dec 23, 20143 mins
Consumer ElectronicsMobile Apps

In the wake of the recent Sony hack scandal, people and organizations are looking for new ways to avoid email when sending sensitive messages. Here are three Snapchat alternative apps that let you send self-destructing messages.

A number of embarrassing emails from Sony execs recently leaked during the company’s high-profile hacking scandal — enough to make some organizations rethink how their workforce uses email.

One way companies can protect themselves from email hacks is to stop using it for sensitive messages (or insensitive messages, given some of the racist remarks the Sony hack exposed). The upcoming BlackBerry/Boeing phone that “self-destructs” is another option.

Of course, an easier way is to send sensitive messages you want to keep private via self-destructing messaging apps like Cyber Dust, Wickr and Yovo. Here’s a look at these apps’ strengths and weaknesses. 

Wickr. I admit, I’m no security expert. Wickr, however, which is free for Android, iOS, and desktop computers, looks to be your best bet for maintaining privacy.

The developer provides more information than most (on its “How Wickr Works” page) about how its “top-secret messager” app keeps messages private. Wickr uses peer-to-peer encryption that doesn’t “rely on centralized private KDF for decryption.”

You don’t have to give Wickr your email address, as you do with some other messaging apps. Also, during setup, you can add your contacts to make it easier to find and communicate with your peeps. This is a common feature in many other messaging apps, but Wickr’s “directory contains cryptographically scrambled contact information” to better protect your friends’ privacy.

Also of note: You can set an expiration time and date for when you want messages and media to self destruct. The app deletes geo-location and other metadata from video and images you share. The developer points out it doesn’t offer a “back door” for the NSA or others to use. The app also has a “secure shredder” feature that prevents your deleted files from being recovered, too. And you can opt to receive messages only from people on your “white list.”

Cyber Dust

The app doesn’t prevent screenshots from being taken, but it does notify you when they are.

Cyber Dust, a free app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, from businessman Mark Cuban, promises fully-encrypted messages. These messages, or “dusts,” are deleted forever once read and are never stored on a server, according to the developer.

When someone takes a screen shot, you get an in-app notification. The app is easy to use, though the setup tutorial is surprisingly lengthy. It supports group messaging, custom friend lists, and the ability to add drawings and text to photos.

Also of note: An email address is required to create a new account.

Yovo, a free, iOS-only app, is for photo messaging, and it has one particularly cool trick up its sleeve. A “D-Fence” privacy filter prevents others from getting a useful screen shot of any photo you send them.

Also of note: Photos are encrypted before they’re uploaded to Yovo servers, but some users might not like the idea of sensitive photos hitting a third-party server. 

Of course, Snapchat kicked the self-destructing app trend into high gear, but there are a number of reasons to doubt its privacy and security features.