Free text message encryption launched on iPhone – and it works with Android

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

March 4, 2015

Here at Best VPN we are always looking for new and innovative ways to keep you secure and private in your communications, because we realize that although VPN can help keep you secure while you are online, there is still the question of privacy during more traditional communication methods.

In the past we have reviewed encryption applications such as TextSecure and Silent Circle for smartphones – these apps allow you to keep your voice calls and text messages private by providing end-to-end encryption to keep you online communications secure.

Now that market is expanding, and an update to an already available app by encryption software group Open Whisper Systems brings together into one platform both voice call and text message encryption for a complete privacy solution for your Apple Mac iPhone.


The App is called Signal, uses ZRTP encryption, and in this update (it was originally released with just vocal encryption last year) brings with it for the first time the added feature of end-to-end text message encryption, meaning that from now on all of the communications that you need to make on your iPhone can be private – whether they be via the internet – or using the ordinary telecommunications networks.

In fact, this new update completes a suite of products that Moxie Marlinspike has been developing at Open Whisper Systems for  five years, but which got put on the back burner for some time because of his involvement with Twitter (OWS was acquired by Twitter in 2011).

When Marlinspike left Twitter in 2013 he created Open Whisper Systems, and got to work on Signal after seeing a gap in the market for an iPhone encryption service that would work seamlessly with encryption apps for Android such as Redphone. The initial release Signal meant that for the first time there was a free encryption option (previously Silent Circle had cost from between $13 and $40 a month) for the iPhone, which allowed for safe cross-platform communication with Android users.


Open Whisper Systems founder Moxie Marlinspike noted that,

‘The objective is to be a complete, transparent replacement for secure communications… We want to have a texting and calling experience that’s actually better than the default experience and is also private.’

In this area, Signal is an absolute success as its lay out and functionality makes it as easy to use as the iPhones own features, and one never has to think even for a second about the complicated processes going on in the background to keep the messages safe. According to Marlinspike this one was of the main aims during development,

‘In many ways the crypto is the easy part… The hard part is developing a product that people are actually going to use and want to use.’

Signal is also an open source app, and this is a vital component of Signal’s design, because it allows third parties to take a look at its coding to verify that it does not have some malicious code hidden deep within it, that might allow for a back door (something that we all know the NSA are keen on).

Let us not forget, after all, that Apple’s own iMessages service does actually offer end-to-end encryption, but is a service that time and time again has come under question from the security community for its closed source approach – an approach that makes it untrustworthy to just about anybody who really cares about privacy. Marlinspike explains it like this,

‘It’s possible that anyone in control of Apple’s servers could intercept your communication without you knowing it’

With Signal this is not the case, and users can simply hold down the contact name on the screen, and check the fingerprints – allowing them to verify that their messages are not being intercepted by a middleman.  On top of that, Signal has an added  perfect forward secrecy which changes the encryption key every single time a message is sent, meaning that any hacker trying to crack the codes would have to do so individually for every single message sent.

With TextSecure now the encryption service of choice for Android users (it even got added to WhatsApp’s functionality  last year – making it the most widespread encryption service available), the fact that Signal is ported to work with its Android counterpart means that iPhone users finally have both voice and text message cross platform integration and functionality. So if you own an iPhone and care about your privacy, then get yourself the App and get yourself anonymized. Happy texting!

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