WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal, comparison: which is the most secure messaging app?
When we talk about secure messaging apps, the names that sound louder are Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp. Today we face them face to face to see which is the safest messaging app for android .
Therefore, we will leave in the background design, functionality, number of users and other important factors when comparing messaging apps to only focus on the security and privacy of these three apps. What will be the best stop?
The first thing to consider when installing an app if you are concerned about your privacy is the permissions they need Although it is true that this has changed a lot since the arrival of Marshmallow and its permissions during of execution. With them, permissions are only requested if they are needed, and you are free to not grant them if you do not want to use this feature.
WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal permissions
Telegram and WhatsApp almost the same permissions except that of SMS access (used for account verification), which is no longer needed in Telegram but still present in WhatsApp. Signal has the same telegram permissions but adds one more: the calendar one. This permission is used to share your calendar events with other people in Signal.
All three apps make reasonable use of permissions
All three apps make reasonable use of permissions, only asking for them when necessary . So you just need to grant the camera permission to send photos or storage permission to send files and photos saved on the mobile. In this regard, all apps behave the same.
Where there are differences are the permissions that are really needed for basic use of the app. Telegram insists enough during the initial setup to grant you access to the call log, although you can use it without granting a single permission . The same with Signal: your life will be easier if you add permission to contacts, although technically you can do it without them, adding by username in Telegram or by phone number in Signal.
Without permission to « contacts » using WhatsApp increases
WhatsApp is the only one that “forces” you to grant permission to access contacts . Without it, you can’t start a conversation with the app alone, although you can use this method to talk to someone by their phone number. In summary, all three apps handle permissions with good reason, although WhatsApp complicates things a bit. Point for telegram and signal .
Access protection (PIN, fingerprint)
Before you worry about what happens to your data in transit from your mobile to the receiver (i.e. encryption), you should also consider the security of your data on the phone itself. What if someone has physical access , even momentarily, to your phone?
I’m sure if you are concerned about the privacy of your data, you will have established unlock protection for your mobile, but maybe Smart Unlock or some other technology softens the security. If someone has access to your phone, can they read your Telegram, WhatsApp and Signal conversations ?
Thankfully, all three apps include native functionality to protect cats from outside eyes , after WhatsApp added fingerprint protection. In any case, protection is not active from your home, but you must activate it from the settings.
Security options in Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp
There are, however, a few differences between the options available. Signal uses the Android lock and can be activated automatically after a certain time, on Telegram you have a little more control , be able to use a pin or password and block the app at any time with the padlock icon. WhatsApp has protection with fewer options, as this can only be done with a fingerprint. More options, more points. Point for Telegram.
All three apps use end-to-end encryption (WhatsApp is signed by the makers of Signal, to be exact), although I already predict The Telegram won’t take any points in this section . Not because homemade MTProto encryption is not secure, but because it is not enabled in all chats by default (normal chats are encrypted, but not end-to-end).
Although WhatsApp and Signal use end-to-end encryption for all communication, in Telegram it is only used in secret cats , which add other extra security features like screenshot protection and chat screenshots. self-destructive messages.
How Telegram Client-Cloud Encryption Works
Without secret conversations, Telegram continues to encrypt messages between client and cloud and there is only evidence of a vulnerability in the implementation, which dates back to 2013. Although experts are not very enthusiastic that Telegram is using its own implementation, on paper it seems that in terms of security everything is linked and well linked. .
However, it is obvious that those who care about their security prefer that the encryption be done entirely on the sender and the receiver , with no servers in between. While all three apps can potentially do this, only WhatsApp and Signal do this transparently to the user, who shouldn’t be taking any further action.
To verify that the « line is secure » you can compare the encryption keys
Since WhatsApp and Signal share the encryption technology, it stands to reason that they also share the encryption scores. Point for Signal and WhatsApp and none for Telegram until it at least includes the option of having all end-to-end encrypted conversations by default, without having to choose each time.
It’s important to make sure your messages are delivered securely and without anyone being able to intercept them, but the message’s content is as important as its metadata . In this context, metadata refers to all additional information that accompanies a message, excluding its own content.
For example If someone calls a pizzeria and orders a pizza, whoever listens to the conversation will know what happened, but the same can also be inferred from the metadata. This person called this phone which belongs to a pizzeria at noon… he will have ordered a pizza. Something similar is happening with our conversations.
With encryption, no one can read your messages, but they can know who you are talking to and from where, thanks to metadata
WhatsApp collects a good amount of metadata from your users such as IP addresses, dates of use, phone and model, network operator, phone number, unique device identifier, location and contacts. By crossing this information together, even without being able to read the content of the messages, you can make fairly rough assumptions about who you are talking to and in some cases what.
Telegram It is cloud based, so technically all your messages, photos and files sent in non-private chats are stored (encrypted, yes) on their servers, although in terms of metadata it is not very clear in what other data they collect besides your contacts, devices and IP addresses. These data are kept for a maximum of one year.
Signal is the only app on our list that minimizes metadata that saves. It only archives the last connection (the day, not even the time) and the phone number of your account. however, not for Signal .
Additional privacy / security features
Now that we’ve covered the most important thing, it’s time to assess the additional merits of each of the requests. Do they have additional features to improve your privacy and security that others don’t ?
In the case of WhatsApp , the most relevant are the privacy options with which you can hide the profile picture, connection time, information and status of some or all people, which can add you to groups and check the steps. There really is nothing else to catch the attention of privacy lovers.
Additional WhatsApp functions
Telegram It includes privacy controls and two-step verification similar to WhatsApp, and adds self-destructing messages, support for the incognito keyboard (note that you need a compatible keyboard app like Gboard or SwiftKey) and the screenshot protection , but only in secret chats. You can also configure Telegram to have the account destroyed after a certain period of activity, as well as to prevent the text of a new message from appearing in the notification.
Additional telegram options
Signal It doesn’t let you choose who can see your name and profile picture (it’s shown to all contacts you have in your account), but it also includes two-step verification (call here more successfully ) Record Lock PIN ), self-destructing messages, notifications without messages, incognito keyboard and blocking (optional) against screenshots.
Signal adds to this the ability to hide your IP address in calls and automatically delete old messages after exceeding a certain amount. With the advantage that all of the above is available in all conversations.
Signal privacy options
Considering that Signal was born as a secure messaging app, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it brings a lot of privacy options as standard. It has more than Telegram, although in return Telegram gives you more control over who can and cannot contact you or see your information. The last point is shared for Signal and Telegram .
Final result and comparison table
So Signal is the best privacy and security messaging app , scoring a point against WhatsApp and Telegram on pretty much every front we’ve analyzed previously. The only thing it doesn’t bring home is access protection which, while it does have it, it’s not as comprehensive as Telegram’s.
WhatsApp only excels at encryption , to a point it shares with Signal as it is powered by the same Open Whisper encryption. Finally, The Telegram is in second position with three points thanks to its padlock to protect chats, the precision of its privacy options and that technically you can use it without granting a single authorization.