Using Messaging Apps- Here’s How to Update Your Security Settings

Using Messaging Apps: Here’s How to Update Your Security Settings in 2021

In early January, WhatsApp announced an update to its privacy policy that drove millions of users to leave the popular messaging app. Two of the most popular alternatives are Signal and Telegram. Ironically, these two options are not necessarily more secure. For each app, security precautions can be taken, but users must take an active part in maintaining their data privacy.


WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption. Only users can access the written content of their messages. However, the company does have access to the metadata, which includes contacts, location, date and time, and device information.

To optimize your privacy, avoid opening links and attachments from people you do not know, or anything that looks suspicious. The option to automatically save sent images should be disabled. Adding two-factor authentication is another way to prevent hacking.

Finally, turning off backups is crucial. While many of us like the idea of using the cloud as a data backup, on WhatsApp messages backed up on the cloud are not protected by the end-to-end encryption of the app.


Like WhatsApp, Signal offers end-to-end encryption, which means user content is safe. The difference is that WhatsApp uses its own proprietary security protocol while Signal’s is open source, so it can be examined for vulnerabilities by security experts. Also, unlike WhatsApp, Signal does not offer cloud backup for security reasons, which essentially makes it more secure. Elon Musk recommends Signal over other apps.

Though Signal takes greater security precautions does not mean it’s without risk. To get the most out of its security options, activate the registry lock that prevents others from accessing your conversation history in case your phone is stolen or your account hacked. You can also set the screen lock on your phone for an added layer of security. Turning off previews will prevent messages from appearing on the main screen of your device. 


Telegram is the weakest of the three big messaging apps. While it does offer end-to-end encryption, it is not the default setting. It can only be used through a “secret chat” option, but this includes individual users, not groups. Additionally, the encryption protocol used by Telegram, MTProto, is only partially open source.

It is not all bad, though. One advantage of Telegram is its self-destruction option, which destroys messages shortly after being read. The catch? This option must be activated. Additional security precautions on Telegram include a privacy setting so only your contacts can send you messages. It is a good idea to regularly review your chat sessions and make sure no other users have entered from other devices. Use “secret chats” whenever possible.

For additional resources and guidance, the Interfor team is here to help.