What is Signal?
Signal is an end-to-end-encrypted instant messaging and SMS app. Users can send direct or group messages, photos, and voice messages across multiple devices. The key advantage that it offers over similar apps is a strong focus on security and privacy. Here are some of its strongest security features:
- End-to-end-encryption: When two or more Signal users start a conversation, they can use end-to-end encryption. This means that no intermediaries – not even at Signal HQ – can read your conversation.
- Open-source code: Open-sourced code lets security analysts around the world test and examine the app’s inner workings to determine whether it’s secure. They can also report bugs to Signal’s developers so they can improve the app. There’s always a theoretical chance that they aren’t actually using the code they’ve published, but all in all, open-source code means Signal can be trusted to be highly secure.
- Non-profit status: Signal is a non-profit organization. This reduces the incentive for them to try to collect and profit from user data.
Should I use Signal?
The Signal app is a great choice for anyone who values security and privacy. A few user types who should really use Signal include:
- Journalists: Using Signal will make it harder to target journalists and make it easier for them to keep their sources confidential.
- Activists: In repressive countries, political activists can be monitored by their governments. Signal provides these groups with a secure way to communicate and organize.
Anyone in any line of work that needs to communicate securely will benefit from Signal. Indeed, anyone at all can use Signal to their benefit, as it will significantly reduce both your cybersecurity vulnerabilities and your data footprint.
Most popular messaging apps are owned by tech giants whose primary business models rely on collecting users’ data. Your private conversations can turn into ad targeting information or might be leaked in the event of a breach or vulnerability. Many users are turning to more privacy-oriented messaging apps to regain control of their data.
What is bad about the Signal app?
Signal is one of the best secure and private messaging options out there, but nothing is ever perfect. Here are a few drawbacks you might want to consider before adopting it:
- Phone number confirmation: Signal requires users to enter a phone number to allow for contact finding and to ensure that users are unique. Some critics have expressed concerns about the use of phone numbers, as they could possibly be used to determine an account’s identity.
- End-to-end limitations: End-to-end encryption is a powerful feature, but it can also introduce certain limitations that most users will need to adjust to:
- Both users need Signal: End-to-end encryption only works if both users have Signal. You can use the app to contact anyone on your contact list whether or not they use Signal, but they need to have it for you to enjoy maximum security.
- Encryption lockout: Nobody but you and the other user can access an end-to-end-encrypted conversation. If both you and the other user lose access to your conversation, it may be lost forever. In that case, not even Signal will be able to recover it for you.
- Fewer social features: Because of Signal’s security and privacy, it may lack certain features that users enjoy on other messaging apps. While fun, these features may introduce vulnerabilities that Signal’s developers sought to eliminate intentionally.
The greatest obstacle for most users will probably be the problem of adjusting to a less socially-enabled messaging app. Functionally, however, you’ll be able to reach all of the same contacts with Signal, so it’s a great choice if you value your privacy and security. We highly recommend trying it out on your app store of choice and seeing if it's right for you.
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