Some messages are better off sent encrypted for the sake of your personal and business security. Irrespective of who you want to protect your sensitive information from, be it a jealous ex, spy agency, or your snooping colleagues, the following mobile apps will help you achieve a certain degree of security.
Here is our breakdown for today, categorized according to the level of security and anonymity they provide. Please, note: apps on the list claim to delete your messages from their servers. Some even claim to never even access them. We cannot possibly verify those claims. Also, a good deal of these apps provide strong and even paranoid encryption, while others are good enough for casual secure messaging with your friends and colleagues in cases when you are not the target of a corporate or government spying agencies, or don’t have a hacker stalking you.
For strong encryption and anonymity:
- Cryptocat [iOS, browser extensions] Free
- Confide [Android, iOS] Free
- TextSecure Private Messenger [Android] Free
- Glyph [Android, iOS, desktop] Free
- Unseen [Android, desktop] Free, Paid
- Wickr [Android, iOS] Free
For secure self-deleting messaging with your friends and family:
- LINE: Free Calls & Messages [Android, iOS]
- Avocado [Android, iOS] Free
- Peek for iPhone [iOS] Free for a limited time
- Ansa [Android, iOS] Free
- Frankly Chat [Android, iOS] Free
Now, let us see what these apps have to offer.
Chat Encryption Apps
By Nadim Kobeissi
Cryptocat is one of the go-to encryption apps for iOS devices and a leader in private communication. Curiously, Apple blocked the app from its app store in 2013 due to undisclosed reasons. Despite the company’s nondisclosure policies, Cryptocat’s developer took the issue to Twitter, stating that the reasons behind the rejection create a dangerous precedent for the company to reject legitimate encryption apps from any developer. This incident is all but forgotten, yet paints a vivid fragment of the company’s large-scale attitude to privacy and security. Multiply that by the recent revelations about numerous backdoors in iOS, and suddenly the platform doesn’t seem so secure.
After the app has been reinstated on the iTunes, it skyrocketed in its popularity, and now you can lay your hands on iPhone app, extension for multiple web browsers and different operating systems.
The app provides end-to-end encryption and allows for group conversations in encrypted chat rooms. The network is located somewhere “in a Swedish nuclear bunker,” after the app’s developer has been persecuted by Canadian government.
- No need to create constant user accounts with names and passwords
- Create a disposable account for each new conversation
- You can create your own chat room, or join the chat room created by a friend
- There is no contact list, or account activity and history that could be linked back to you
- There are browser extensions for Apple Safari, Opera, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome
- A standalone client for Windows and Mac operating systems
- Mobile, desktop and web apps can interact
- Anyone who knows the name of the chat room can access it, but without a secret key person will not be able to read anything
- You can have group chats
- Encrypted chat rooms are easy to use and completely disposable
- Use a different device to let your recipient know the password for the chat room and you eliminate the man-in-the middle attack
- No Android app
Read our review of Cryptocat here.
Confide is a free Android and iOS application that delivers encrypted private messages and deletes them once the recipient reads them. The developers target business audience in the first place, but that doesn’t mean you cannot use it for your private conversations. However, pay attention to how it works and see for yourself if it would be appropriate for you.
Confide makes it impossible to take a screenshot of the messages. For example, if your device is infected by a keylogger or an application that spies on you from your camera, that spyware won’t be able to read the encrypted message because of the special technology implemented. Namely, the recipient reveals the message word by word by tapping on the concealed words. Once tapped, the word is revealed for a short period of time, and then hidden again. The message itself looks like a top-secret governmental file with zero words intelligible.
Once the recipient reads the message, the message gets deleted automatically and the sender receives a notification.
Read our overview of the app here.
- The app is easy to use and doesn’t require its users to have a technical background
- The app’s special way to reveal hidden messages beats spyware, keyloggers and camfecting apps
- Perfect for short messages
- Once read, the message gets automatically deleted
- The recipient can view the message only once
- The way the messages are revealed may not be appropriate for long messages
- There is no password protection, so anyone who can hack into the system and intercept the message, or prevent it from destruction, or in physical possession of a smartphone of the recipient can read an incoming message sent through Confide
By Open Whisper Systems
TextSecure lets you communicate with your friends without paying text messages fees in the private and secure manner. You can create friend groups and chat with selected friends simultaneously sharing attachments or other media without privacy concerns. The main appeal of this app is that your communication is not stored on the company’s servers. In fact, the servers do not have access to any of you messages or personal data.
- Advanced end-to-end encryption protocol for every message
- Open-source app enables anyone with expertise to check the security of the code, so the community of users keeps an eye open for security bugs and holes, if any
- Possibility to create the group chats that are equally encrypted and private as individual chats
- The app’s server does not have access to user metadata
- The app works fast providing ease-of-use and security
- Doesn’t work on tablets for the moment
- Doesn’t have an iOS app
By Wickr, LLC
Your self-destructing messages are your property, which means you as a sender control the message and decide for how long the recipient is able to view it. Wickr servers do not have access to your private data, which means only your recipient will know who sent the private message.
- Strong encryption for the messages and the decryption keys, which are encrypted by different algorithms, so no two users have two identical keys
- The message you send can only be read on the recipient’s device
- The servers do not collect your personal information
- The servers proxy IP between you and your recipient
- The app deletes metadata of the attachments you send
- The app has a file shredder that deletes user-selected files using secure shredding algorithms
- The possibility to send pdf files from cloud services
- Trusted and credible, endorsed by privacy advocates and experts
- Free app, easy-to-use interface
- The possibility to send attachments containing large variety of file types
- No protection from keyloggers and other spyware, including from your recipient taking a screenshot of your message
By Gliph, Inc.
Gliph is a multi-purpose app with a great focus on security and privacy. Suffice to say, it has Bitcoin transfers integrated, a feature that once got the app banned from Apple App Store, but the developers appealed the ruling, and now, once again the app is back on iTunes, alongside with a number of other Bitcoin-supporting apps.
Now, the secure messaging is the app’s prime feature, and it is worth adding the app has versions for mobile, desktop and web usage, and it taps into Wi-Fi, as well as 3G and 4G to let you send instant messages to a friend or a group of friends.
Besides messaging, the app lets you make Bitcoin payments and use Bitcoin QR code scanner.
- A Bitcoin-enabled app
- Real delete feature deletes the messages from your smartphone, the server and your recipient’s device, ensuring total wipe out of conversations
- The app treats your personal data with outmost respect, and does not collect your sensitive data. Nor does it display ads, or tracks your online activities
- Chat securely with a single friend, or invite a group for a secure chat session. Moreover, you can fine-tune the group chat, so that your friends see your nickname, but your colleagues see your real name
- Has a desktop and tablet version
- Provides timely support and does not impose unexpected IAPs on users
- You can buy a disposable cloaked email
- The possibility to chat securely with people who do not have Gliph installed by just sending them a link to your secure chat room
- Protect your data through Lockdown Privacy Protection password
- With password reset feature off, no one but you would be able to decrypt your data
- Send hi-res photos securely
- Ample app settings, ease of use
Unseen Secure Chat [Android, desktop]
By Unseen, efh.
Price: Free, Paid depending on a plan, but the free plan is ample for personal use
Unseen offers strong end-to-end encryption and NTRU for public key exchange, so the level of security is ample for both individual and business users.
- 4096 end-to-end encryption for your secure chat
- Multiplatform support
- Subscripe for a plan and use encrypted chat, encrypted email service, audio-video calling via webRTC
- One-on-one and group chats
- Secure file transfer
- The servers are hosted in Iceland
- No iOS just yet, but according to the developers’ website, it is soon to be launched
Secure self-destroying messaging apps
Line is originally a chat app with cute perks for young girls and I Heart Kitty boys, with emoji, games, video and image file sharing and lots of cool stuff, as far as a chat app is concerned. However, recently the developers rolled out an encrypted chat feature, or a hidden chat, as they call it, enabling two to users chat securely. Here is how you use it.
- Only two users can use one encrypted chat room
- The encrypted message sender can set the time when the message gets deleted from the recipient’s device and LINE servers
- Unread messages are stored on LINE servers for two weeks
- Hidden chat supports text, images, contact details, location data and stickers encryption and transfer
- No encrypted chat for users from Japan, China and Malaysia
- No hidden chats for groups
- Hidden chat does not support video or voice messages, notes, snap movies or albums transfer
We included Avocado on the list of apps for lovers, and it just might do the job of securing communication between two people, if that’s what you need.
The app creates a secure environment for two people on two devices to keep in touch and share text messages, calendar entries and images, and other information. The app features secure instant messaging, photos sketching and sharing, shared lists creation and editing.
- Secure communication for two people only
- Secure instant messaging and photo sharing
- Good for married couples planning vacations and shopping together
- Advanced encryption and security features enable users to protect their personal communication
- The possibility to archive relationships information
- The app has Android, iOS and web interface
- Intuitive interface and a slew of features for couples, such as creating custom notes and quick messages, posting tweets as a couple and plenty of cute emoji, as well as the possibility to send your picture instead of an emoji
- The app is good for two people only; there is no possibility to have a group chat
Peek for iPhone [iOS] for fun
Price: Free for a limited time
Previously known as Skim, Peek is an app created by privacy advocates. The app deletes your messages once you read them, eliminating the history of your conversations in real time. This way, you’ll know that neither you, nor your friend will have a record of your conversation.
- The message gets deleted automatically as soon as it’s opened
- No one, neither the sender, nor the recipient can restore the message once it is automatically deleted
- The message gets dissolved the moment you read it from left to right
- The sender can choose the speed of the message vanishing from slow to medium, or superfast
- Perfect for those who simply want to have fun and protect their personal communication from parents who aren’t technically savvy
- May not work for slow readers
- Requires Facebook or Twitter login when you sign-up, so the anonymity is out of the question here
- It does have a friends list
By Ansa.com, Inc.
Ansa allows you to go off the record and send text messages that get deleted after 60 seconds after your friend reads it. The app is abundant in privacy features, but off-the-record button is the main appeal. Once you hit it, the recipient is notified that he/she is about to receive a private message, and the message itself and the reply will be deleted. If you choose to get back on the record, your recipient receives notification.
For “on record” messages, Ansa has another nifty feature, sync deletion – if you want to delete a previously sent message, it can do so even if you sent it months ago. The app as well deletes them on your recipient’s phone.
- Sync deletion of messages sent on the record, which effectively deletes your messages on your phone and your recipient’s phone
- Off the record messages get deleted 60 seconds after opening
- Once the message gets deleted in the off the record mode, it also gets deleted from the company’s servers
- Self-destructing messages support text, videos and photos
- Self-destruct timer
- Support for many file formats
- Browse the Internet and find images and songs to add to your messages from within the application
- The company keeps on the record messages on its servers for unlimited time
- Has a friends list, which can optionally be synchronized with your address book and Facebook account, which effectively compromises on your privacy and anonymity
- No group messaging feature
By Tictoc Planet, Inc.
Even though this application won’t do for outmost anonymity and privacy, it is a great tool for students and groups of friends willing to send self-destructing messages and have fun at the same time. You will have to create your account with a unique username and an option to connect to Facebook or Twitter, for your friends to be able to identify you in the system of Frankly chats. Besides talking to your friends in the network, you can also make friends with other users, or block unwanted contacts.
Another nifty feature here is your friends don’t need to instantly download and install the app to be able to read messages you send via Frankly chat. You can send a self-destructing image to your friend’s email or text message app. The messages get deleted after 10 seconds upon receiving, unless you choose to save them. Just like in the above-mentioned application, Frankly lets you delete the messages you sent previously from your phone and your friend’s phone.
- If your recipient takes a screenshot of the message, Frankly sends you a notification
- Private messages get deleted 10 seconds after opening
- Ability to send self-destructing messages to people who don’t have Frankly chat installed on their smartphones
- The possibility to send self-destructing video messages
- A fun feature to create anonymous chat groups to let your friends speak anonymously within the limited circle of people – speak what you want and the only way your friends would be able to identify you would be by your verbiage
- Plenty of customizable fun features, such as usernames and emoji
- The app uses Wi-Fi, so you’re not paying for data or text messages plan
- Great for youngsters and groups of friends
- No end-to-end encryption
- No real anonymity
As a bonus suggestion, we recommend you check out this camera app that encrypts your shame. If you fancy a photo session of yourself wearing nothing but your brand new Android Wear, or a new girlfriend in bikini, or an unofficial girlfriend wearing bikini, or god knows what else you might be scaring that camera with, you must have a way to hide the proof from prying eyes of your wives, husbands, parents, or roommates. Safe Camera – Photo Encryption uses military grade encryption algorithms to encrypt photos you take instantly and store them securely. That way, if your phone should get into the hands of your better half, or a hacker, they won’t be able to view your censored content without your master password.
- The photos are instantly encrypted with state of the art algorithms and securely stored, so there is no unencrypted version of the photo that’s written to the disk prior to encryption. Thus, no one can restore that file using un-delete software
- Other apps can’t access your encrypted photos
- The app has a gallery, flash and timer for selfies
- You can import previously taken shots to the app and encrypt them, deleting the originals
- You can share encrypted photos with your recipient by: decrypting the image and sharing the old-fashioned way, encrypting and providing a password, encrypting and providing a standalone password for that file only
- The app has a desktop version, so you can transfer files to your computer
- The app supports other file types
- No video support, but the feature is coming
- No iOS version
RedPhone :: Secure Calls [Android]
By Open Whisper Systems
Another app on the bonus suggestions list lets you make secure phone calls enjoying end-to-end encryption, ensuring that nobody can eavesdrop on your conversations. The app taps into your regular phone number to receive and make phone calls, as well as uses the default system dialer and your regular contacts app, so the experience doesn’t differ much from placing regular unencrypted phone calls.
- End-to-end encryption of phone calls, provided your recipient also has the app installed
- The app is free and open source, which means user community can audit the source code
- Places phone calls over Wi-Fi or data, without tapping into your plan’s paid minutes
- Doesn’t have an iOS version
If you have more suggestions, or feedback on the listed apps, feel free to list them in the comments below.