By Lily Snyder
Before my husband deployed, we talked about what apps we would use for texting and video calling while he was overseas. He has an iPhone, I have an Android, so we couldn’t use FaceTime nor iMessage. We decided to use Signal as our primary form of communication with WhatsApp as a backup. We decided on WhatsApp as a backup because it was well known that it had been hacked. The soldiers were instructed not to text anything personal via WhatsApp.
It’s a given that you shouldn’t discuss anything related to a mission via third party apps. No information sent over the internet is 100% secure and private. It’s important to know who owns what apps, what’s done with the data.
We based these apps on security, encryption, and features. Remember to download and test your communication apps before your spouse deploys or goes TDY.
The Best Messaging Apps for Deployment
Signal is what the Special Ops guys told my husband to use when he went overseas. Signal supports text, calls, and video calls. You can attach photos and videos to your messages too. Signal is the app of choice for the troops because each message in encrypted. Like SnapChat, you can set messages to disappear after a certain amount of time. According to Wired, “the encryption Signal uses is available under an open-source license, so experts have had the chance to test and poke the app to make sure it stays as secure as what’s intended.”
Wickr is not flashy but it gets the job done when it comes to private communication. According to their website Wickr, “deletes all metadata from its communications and [their] Secure File Shredder cleans the RAM after each message or picture is opened.” Wickr stores your information in a “cryptographic hashing” before uploaded to their servers, making your data unreadable based on the hashed values stored.
iMessage & FaceTime
iMessages are end-to-end encrypted by Apple. The only downside is both parties must have an iOS device to use iMessage. Facetime is also encrypted but in early 2019 it was revealed that a bug let users listen in on someone else’s Apple device and watch them through their camera.
The Worst Messaging Apps
Don’t get us wrong. These apps have tons of fun features and billions of users worldwide. But from a security point of view, they’re not the best. Read on why you should be cautious using these apps with your soldier.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular messing apps out there. It has over a billion users worldwide and is packed with features. It supports texts, calls, and video calls. You can create group chats and star your favorite messages for later.
Unfortunately, WhatsApp is compromised, as my husband was told when he deployed. As recently as May 2019, it was revealed answering a video call can give someone access to your phone’s camera, microphone, and allow them to perform other malicious activities.
One last thing to keep in mind, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. So even though WhatsApp messages are encrypted to outside users, your messages are now open for Facebook’s algorithms. Although it’s unclear when Facebook will start using WhatsApp data ad targeting, Facebook is planning on merging WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram chats.
Facebook Messenger has tons of features including the basics of texting and video calling. However, it’s not as secure as other message apps. Two big security problems with Facebook Messenger are that, “you have to encrypt conversations individually by flipping on the “Secret Conversations” option…and that anyone with a Facebook profile can just search for your name and send you a message.” Plus, you’re giving your information and data to Facebook who uses it to target ads and shares it with third parties.
Skype used to be the app to use for online video calls. Its hay day was in the early 2000s. I remember everyone using it in college when we went off for holiday breaks for summers abroad. Since then, Skype has been bought by Microsoft. Its mobile app has not kept up with other message apps. Like Facebook messenger, end-to-end encryption can be turned on for Skype chats individually by creating “private conversations”.
What do you think of our list? What messaging apps do you use?