WhatsApp Pegasus attack: Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has confirmed that it was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in India using an Israeli spyware tool called Pegasus. The vulnerability was first reported back in May this year, and in October, WhatsApp has sued NSO Group for the hacking. WhatsApp has been vocal about the end-to-end encryption it offers for messaging and while this was not exploited for the Pegasus attack, the spyware took advantage of video/voice call function on the app, which had a zero-day security flaw.
End-to-end encryption on WhatsApp or any other messaging app ensures that the message cannot be read by anyone other than the sender and the intended recipient. No third-party can read these messages. Still wth the world’s most popular app under the radar — there are over 1.5 billion users who use WhatsApp and 400 million in India alone — it is not surprising if users look at other secure messaging options. Some popular ones include iMessage, Wire, and Signal that offer end-to-end encryption for messages. We take a look at some end-to-end messaging options to consider other than WhatsApp.
Apple offers end-to-end protection for iMessage and FaceTime conversations across all devices. The only problem is that iMessage and FaceTime are not cross-platform apps and restricted to Apple devices. So you can only use iMessage if you and your friends all have an iPhone or other Apple device. Another advantage with Apple’s iMessage is that the third-party apps that use iMessage are not given access to a user’s conversations. Apple’s iMessage is very popular in markets like the US, where a majority of users are on the iPhone already.
Wire is another option that offers end-to-end encryption across its messenger, voice, video, conference calls, file-sharing, and external collaboration services. The end-to-end encryption is switched on by default for conversations, text files, files and images, etc.
The messaging service is free for personal usage, though there is a paid version as well for enterprises and has end-to-end encryption enabled here as well. Wire is supported on various platforms as well, which makes it an even better option. Apart from Android and iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera are supported as well.
Signal is free for everyone and messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted. Among other features is disappearing messages as users can set timers for when they want their message to automatically get deleted or disappeared. Signal can be used on iPhone, Android as well as desktop. WhatsApp uses the Signal protocol for its end-to-end encryption. Signal is one of the most trust apps when it comes to security and privacy.
Telegram, Facebook Messenger secret chats
Telegram has this feature called Secret Chats which offers end-to-end encryption for chats, though like WhatsApp not all chats are encrypted by default on Telegram. Facebook Messenger also has a similar Secret Conversation feature where the chats are end-to-end encryption. Reports suggest Facebook is also looking an encrypting audio and video calls, though it is unclear when the feature will be rolled out.