AVG Signal Blog Privacy Privacy Tips The Most Secure Messaging Apps
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What is a secure messaging app?

A secure messaging app uses end-to-end encryption to secure data across its entire journey from sender to receiver. The data is encrypted when sent and decrypted when it reaches its destination — at no point during this journey can anyone access the data.

App

Compatibility

Cost

Apple iMessage

iOS, macOS

Free

Dust

iOS, Android

Free

Facebook Messenger

iOS, Android

Free

Google Messages

Android

Free

Line

iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

Free

Signal

iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux

Free

Silence

Android

Free

Telegram

iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux

Free

Threema

iOS, Android

$3.99

Viber

iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

Free

WhatsApp

iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

Free

Wickr Me

iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux

Free


Note: All apps on this list use end-to-end encryption.

End-to-end encryption also prevents secure messaging apps from storing copies of your communications on their servers. In the event of a data breach, any leaked conversations will still be secured.

This article contains:

    What makes a messaging app secure?

    The defining feature of a messaging app is end-to-end encryption, but it’s not enough on its own to do 100% of the work. Other important security features include default encryption, open-source code, and minimal data collection, if any at all.

    These features work together to secure your messages while also preventing anyone from tampering with the app itself to compromise your security or personal information.

    End-to-end encryption

    End-to-end encryption means your private chat messages are scrambled, and only the sender and the receiver of the messages have the “keys” to read them. With end-to-end encryption, no one besides you and the person you’re talking to can decipher your messages.

    A drawing showing how end-to-end encryption keeps data secure

    After whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s global surveillance program, the importance of encryption and online privacy was made clear. Since then, many companies have added and improved encryption in their software. When checking an Android app for safety or evaluating an iOS app, look for end-to-end encryption as a minimum if you’re using the app to communicate.

    Default encryption settings

    The most secure messaging apps have end-to-end encryption enabled as the default (or only) setting. Others require you to go into the settings and activate the encryption for communication, while others encrypt messages only in certain scenarios. Look for a private chat app that has end-to-end encryption set as the default.

    Open-source code

    Open-source code indicates an encrypted messaging app’s integrity, since it means that anyone can inspect the code for exploitable vulnerabilities. By opening an app up to outside accountability and auditing by experts, open-source code allows apps to be independently verified for security.

    Minimal or no data collection

    Some messaging apps may collect metadata, background information about you and your messages including your contacts, the frequency and duration of your conversations, and information about your device, IP address, phone number, and more. Look for a secure messaging app that doesn’t collect your data as part of its user agreement.

    Setting up a VPN app on your mobile device can prevent the collection of some types of metadata. Otherwise, this metadata forms a digital footprint that companies use to market toward you more effectively. And in the event of a data breach, your collected data may be vulnerable.

    Keep your data safe by encrypting your entire internet connection with a VPN. It’ll hide your IP address and real-world location to prevent anyone from identifying you or monitoring your internet activities. Protect your online privacy and secure all your data with AVG Secure VPN.

    What are the most secure messaging apps for Android & iPhone?

    Apple iMessage

    Apple’s iMessage is supported by the Messenger application on iOS version 5.0 and later. Letting users send text, documents, videos, photos, contact information, and group messages over the internet, iMessage is very popular among iPhone users. Keeping your iPhone safe is one thing, but is iMessage actually secure?

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, macOS

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      iMessage has end-to-end encryption only on messages between iPhone users, but functions as a typical unencrypted texting app when sending messages to users of other devices. iMessage’s partner app FaceTime covers encrypted voice and video calls.

    • Self-destructing messages

      With iOS and later versions, iMessage users can control how long each photo, video, or message will appear before it disappears. You can also choose how many times the viewer can see the message.

    • iMessages deleted from servers

      Your encrypted messages remain on Apple’s servers for seven days before they’re deleted.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Encryption weaknesses

      In 2019, researchers from Project Zero presented six high-level exploits that allowed them to use iMessages to take over a user’s device. And in 2021, the Pegasus spyware was shown to exploit an iMessage vulnerability. Apple is quick to patch vulnerabilities when they appear.

    • iCloud backups

      If you back up your iMessages to iCloud, these messages are encrypted on iCloud using a key controlled by Apple, not you. While Apple has refused to create “back doors” into their system or weaken encryption, they and other tech companies do have a history of cooperating with authorities and turning over information stored on the cloud.

    Dust

    A discreet messaging app, Dust lets you send private messages (or photos and videos) called “Dusts” to your contacts that disappear shortly after being read. “Blasts” are another type of message that can be sent to multiple recipients at once, but received privately. You can also start group chats.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Dust uses closed-source “heavy encryption.” You can send encrypted text, photo, or video messages, but the app does not allow for voice or video calls.

    • No permanent storage

      Rather than store messages on your phone or on Dust’s servers, they’re sent to the app’s RAM until they are accessed by the receiver. You can also erase your messages off of other people’s devices.

    • Screenshot alerts

      If a screenshot is attempted on an Android phone, the name of the person who sent the message is removed. Apple prevents apps from blocking screenshots, so iPhone users receive a notification if someone takes a screenshot of their sent message.

    • Auto “Dust”

      Messages can be automatically erased within 24 hours, or as soon as they’re read.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Closed-source

      Dust’s encryption protocol isn’t available for public scrutiny. There’s no way to independently verify its security.

    Facebook Messenger

    Facebook’s secure texting app is available for both iPhone and Android phones, and is a convenient way to keep up with friends and family thanks to its sheer popularity. Its user base alone makes it one of the top chat apps for iOS and Android.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      In 2016, Facebook added its Secret Conversations feature so you can send secure messages with the Signal end-to-end encryption protocol (also used by WhatsApp). While Signal and WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption by default, Secret Conversations must be manually activated.

    • Self-destructing messages

      You can set Facebook Messenger messages to self-destruct after a certain period of time (between five seconds and 24 hours).

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Encryption off by default

      You’ll have to turn on end-to-end encryption yourself. Until then, messages are encrypted only when sent to Facebook’s server, then re-encrypted when sent to the recipient. A copy of the message remains on Facebook’s servers.

    • Privacy concerns

      Ever since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, concerns about data collection overreach have intensified, causing many to wonder how they can protect their personal data while on Facebook.

      To make matters worse, news broke in 2018 that Facebook had been collecting information about the calls and texts of its Android users through a permission that allows the app to import phone contacts. They were caught doing it again a year later. There are plenty of reasons to believe Facebook is helping itself to your data.

    Google Messages

    The default messaging app on Android devices, Google Messages is finally introducing end-to-end encryption via the Signal protocol — but only on direct conversations between two users. Group chats won’t be covered with end-to-end encryption, nor will the feature be enabled by default.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: Android

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Google Messages lets users apply end-to-end encryption to personal conversations.

    • Open-source encryption

      End-to-end encryption is provided by the open-source Signal protocol — the same as you’ll get with Signal, WhatsApp, and Silence (another Android-only secure messaging app).

    icon_04Security risks:

    • End-to-end encryption must be activated

      For Google Messages to protect conversations with end-to-end encryption, the conversation must be direct between two people, and both participants must enable the RCS messaging standard by activating the “Chat features” in the settings.

    • Direct online messages only

      Group chats and SMS messages are not eligible for end-to-end encryption in Google Messages.

    Line

    Line is the leading messaging app across much of East and Southeast Asia. Line’s ecosystem includes not only encrypted messaging but VoIP calling, games, security tools, media portals, healthcare consultancy, and even mobile phone plans.

    icon_02Price: Free (includes premium in-app services)

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Known in the app as “Letter Sealing,” end-to-end encryption must be manually activated. Line’s November 2020 encryption report shows end-to-end encryption on messages, but not for other forms of communication such as voice messages or stickers — images and gifs that users can send one another.

    • Antivirus for Android

      Android users can install a security add-on that claims to detect malware or other malicious activity on phones, but results are mixed at best. You’re much better off protecting your phone with a decided Android security app from a reliable security partner.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Incomplete encryption

      Once enabled, Line’s end-to-end encryption only turns Line into a secure texting app — any other types of messages are not covered.

    • Encryption weaknesses

    • As several cybersecurity researchers discovered in 2017, Line’s encryption methods at the time left user data open to potential exploit by clever hackers.

    Signal

    Signal has been touted as the most secure messaging app by security experts and government organizations worldwide. Available as a free instant messaging app on iPhone and Android phones as well as desktops, Signal provides end-to-end encryption via its Signal protocol: the gold standard of mobile encryption. It’s easy to see why Signal is often cited as one of the best iPhone security apps.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Signal’s safe chat app covers messages, voice calls, group messages, and video calls with end-to-end encryption.

    • PIN access

      You’ll set a PIN that’s used to set Signal up on new devices.

    • Open-source

      Signal’s open-source code can be viewed by anyone, which allows for routine auditing and helps ensure the app’s security.

    • Disappearing messages

      For extra security, Signal lets you make both sent and received messages disappear after a certain period of time.

    • Minimal data storage

      Unlike many other messaging apps, Signal only stores the metadata required for the app to work, such as your phone number, random keys, and profile information.

    • Password security

      Signal lets you set a password to lock it. If your phone is ever stolen, your messages will still be protected with your Signal PIN.

    icon_04Security risks:

    As arguably the most secure messaging app, Signal has virtually no security risks — though your account is linked to your phone number. As long as the app’s developers continue to fix vulnerabilities quickly, Signal will remain at the top of the messaging app food chain.

    Silence

    Formerly known as SMSSecure, Silence is a secure messaging app that encrypts messages locally on your device as well as while in transit. It’s managed by volunteers who maintain the app’s open-source code. But while it may be one of the best privacy apps for Android, there’s no iOS version.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: Android

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Using the Signal encryption protocol, Silence messages are covered with end-to-end encryption.

    • Local encryption

      Silence encrypts messages on your device. If someone else gets your phone, your communications will be safe.

    • Open-source

      Anyone can examine Silence’s source code to verify its security.

    • No sign-up required

      Silence doesn’t need your email address or any other personal data.

    • SMS-based

      If you lose internet access, you can still send and receive encrypted messages.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Limited user base

      No iOS or desktop support and a relatively small Android user base means that the majority of your communications will need to be secured via another app.

    Telegram

    With over 500 million users monthly, the secure messaging app Telegram has steadily grown in popularity since its debut in 2013. It’s known for its unique group chat feature that can support up to 100,000 members.

    In 2018, Russia banned Telegram after the encrypted messaging app refused to hand over its encryption keys. Telegram has also been criticized due to its status as the preferred messaging app of ISIS. Events like these fuel the ongoing debate about when and if secure messaging apps should cooperate with law enforcement at the expense of user privacy.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Telegram offers a feature called “Secret Chat” that lets you protect your messages with end-to-end encryption. But the feature is not on by default, so you’ll need to turn it on to make Telegram a secret chat app.

    • Passcode lock

      Set a 4-digit code to prevent intruders from accessing your messages, which can be useful if your phone gets lost or stolen.

    • Two-step verification

      Two-step verification requires you to use both an SMS code and a password to log in. You can also set up a recovery email address in case you forget your password — and as always, make sure to avoid common password mistakes.

    • Open-source

      Anyone can check Telegram’s source code, protocol, and API to make sure it’s free of security holes.

    • Telegram Cracking Contest

      Telegram’s hacking challenge, lets hackers attempt to break their encryption and decipher messages, with a $300,000 reward on the line. This helps ensure that any potential vulnerabilities are found and fixed.

    • Self-destructing messages

      Like many other secure texting apps, Telegram offers a Self-Destruct Timer (for Secret Chats only) that deletes private text messages and media within a preset time limit.

    • Remote logout

      Because you can log into Telegram from numerous devices at the same time (web, PC, tablet, smartphone, etc.), you can log out of other sessions from the current device you’re using. This protects your data if one of your devices is stolen.

    • Account self-destruct

      After your account has been inactive for a certain amount of time (six months being the default), your account will automatically self-destruct, completely wiping clean all of your messages and media.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • End-to-end encryption isn’t default

    You must manually enable Telegram’s “Secret Chat” feature, otherwise chats are only encrypted between your device and Telegram’s server.

    • Logging chat data

    If you don’t enable the Secret Chat feature, your chat data is saved on Telegram’s servers. The company claims this is in case you lose your device and want to recover your messages, but from a security standpoint, this is a big no-no.

    • Proprietary encryption technology

    Telegram created its own MTProto protocol, instead of using one that is already proven secure. Questions have been raised around the lack of transparency of this protocol.

    Threema

    Unlike most of the secure messaging apps featured here, Threema isn’t free. It comes at a one-time fee of $3.99. In addition to its private personal messaging app, Threema offers a suite of enterprise solutions for organizations wishing to shore up their internal communications.

    icon_02Price: $3.99 (individual messaging app)

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Text and voice messages as well as voice and video calls are encrypted from sender to receiver, and there’s no way to turn the end-to-end encryption off. Any files sent via Threema are also covered.

    • Minimal data collection

      Messages are deleted from the server and contact lists are stored locally on your device. Even Threema’s website is free of tracking cookies. Threema’s anonymity makes it one of the top non-traceable text message apps.

    • Open-source

      Threema’s source code is available for anyone to inspect for security weaknesses or other vulnerabilities.

    • No personal data required

      Threema doesn’t collect your phone number, email address, or other personal data when you install the app. You can use it anonymously.

    • Hidden chat app

      Set messages as private to hide them from your Threema home screen and protect them with a PIN. Private messages also won’t generate push notifications on your lock screen.

    icon_04Security risks:

    If you don’t mind the price point, Threema is a highly secure messaging app with a heavy emphasis on privacy.

    Viber

    One of the most popular secure messaging apps, Viber has over a billion worldwide users. Viber secures messages, calls, group chats, and files via end-to-end encryption using its own encryption protocol.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Viber secures all your communications via the app with end-to-end encryption. Only a conversation’s participants can read the messages it contains.

    • Disappearing messages

      Set a time limit on any message — it’ll be deleted from the chat at that time.

    • Private chats

      Viber allows you to hide chats from your home screen and protect them with a PIN. If your phone is stolen, your confidential chats will still be safe.

    • Hide your phone number

      Though Viber requires your phone number for signup, you can initiate new chats without revealing yours.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Encryption isn’t open-source

      While Viber’s encryption protocol is based on the popular and open-source Signal protocol, it isn’t open-source itself. That means you’ll just have to trust Viber with your security.

    WhatsApp

    With over 2 billion users, WhatsApp is one of the most popular secure instant messaging apps. Its massive user base is definitely one of WhatsApp’s strong points, along with its iOS and Android compatibility and ad-free experience. You can easily send text messages, photos, as well as short video and voice messages. But are WhatsApp chats private?

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

    WhatsApp uses a super-secure encryption protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems — the company behind secure messaging app Signal. Only the sender and receiver have the keys to decrypt messages sent via WhatsApp. Voice and video calls are also encrypted.

    • Verify encryption

    WhatsApp also has a Verify Security Code screen that lets you confirm that your calls and messages are end-to-end encrypted. The code is presented as both a QR code and a 60-digit number.

    • Two-step verification

    An optional feature, two-step verification lets you protect your account with a PIN that is required to verify your phone number on any device.

    • Messages not stored

    Messages are only stored on WhatsApp’s servers while en route to their recipients. If a message can’t be delivered, it’s deleted from the server after 30 days.

    icon_04Security risks:

    • Unencrypted backups

      WhatsApp added encryption protection to iCloud backups in late 2016. But until recently, Android phone messages backed up on Google Drive weren’t similarly protected. In September 2021, WhatsApp announced that encrypted cloud backups would be coming for all iOS and Android users later in the year.

    • Phone number required

      Your WhatsApp account is linked to your phone number.

    • Facebook data sharing

      WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014 and has been sharing user data with the social media giant since 2016 In 2021, WhatsApp forced users to share more data with Facebook if they wanted to continue using the secure messaging app.

    Wickr Me

    Wickr offers a free secure messaging app for personal use (Wickr Me) as well as various tiers of premium solutions (Wickr Pro and Wickr Enterprise) for businesses. Though it began as an independent app, Wickr has since been acquired by Amazon.

    icon_02Price: Free

    icon_01Compatibility: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux

    icon_03Security features:

    • End-to-end encryption

      Wickr Me provides secure texting, voice and video calls for groups of up to 70 people, and screen-sharing.

    • Screenshot detection

      Wickr will alert you if someone else takes a screenshot of one of your messages. This feature is enabled for all Wickr users, meaning no one can prevent Wickr from detecting screenshots.

    • Screen overlay protection

      On Android, Wickr can detect screen overlays and become unusable when an overlay is detected — helping to protect the app from TapJacking.

    • Third-party keyboard blocking

      On iOS, Wickr lets you block third-party keyboards, preventing them from recording anything you type while using the app.

    • Secure Shredder

      This feature adds an extra layer of security by making sure your already deleted files can't be recovered with special tools. While Wickr does this for you periodically, you also have the option to manually erase information from your phone.

    • Anonymous signup

      Wickr Me won’t collect your phone number or email address when you create an account.

    icon_04Security risks:

    Wickr is generally considered almost foolproof from a security standpoint. Though it was previously criticized for keeping its code closed-source, Wickr released its cryptographic protocol on Github in 2017.

    What is the most secure messaging app?

    In our experience, the most secure messaging app is Signal. Its open-source Signal Protocol is the industry standard for end-to-end message and voice encryption. And as an independent, donation-funded company, Signal isn’t incentivized to monetize data. And its rapidly growing user base means that people you know are likely already using it.

    For another option, consider Threema. Threema’s dedication to privacy means it doesn’t collect any of your personal info, not even your phone number or email address, and not on its website via browser cookies. Threema’s downside isn’t its cost so much as its limited popularity — you may struggle to find other people you know who are already using it.

    Apps to avoid

    If you’re on the hunt for the best encrypted messaging app, there are a few apps to avoid. The following messaging apps will not protect your data with end-to-end encryption.

    • GroupMe

      As the name suggests, GroupMe is an app dedicated to group messages — but those messages aren’t end-to-end encrypted. GroupMe lets users receive messages via SMS, but apps can’t encrypt SMS messages — this may be why GroupMe has never implemented end-to-end encryption. If you use GroupMe, be sure never to reveal any sensitive personal data on it.

    • Instagram

      Instagram isn’t usually thought of as an instant message (IM) app, but its DMs (direct messages) are a popular way to communicate. Sadly, they aren’t end-to-end encrypted. If you begin a conversation over Instagram and want to secure it, migrate the chat to one of the private messaging apps featured here.

    • Kik Messenger

      Kik is a free mobile messaging app for iOS and Android, but one that’s missing several critical encryption features. While messages are encrypted in transit, they’re not fully protected with end-to-end encryption.

    Encrypt all your data with a VPN

    Online security and privacy extends well beyond your preferred messaging app. Even if you’re already using one of the best private messaging apps shown here, there are many ways your data can leak online. Public Wi-Fi exposes your data, and your internet service provider (or employer, or school) can monitor your online activity.

    A VPN places your online privacy securely in your hands to protect your internet traffic from anyone trying to see what you’re doing. By encrypting your entire internet connection, AVG Secure VPN keeps your data safe and private on its way to wherever it’s going: a banking or shopping site, an online game, or even your favorite messaging app. Protect all your personal data with AVG Secure VPN.

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