This past January, Skype announced the introduction of end-to-end encryption for its call and chat services. With end-to-end encryption, messages exchanged between two parties can’t be accessed by any third parties, including the host platform itself.
Skype’s private conversation feature is currently only available as a preview for Skype insiders. But luckily, there are other chat applications that allow you to have protected exchanges.
Below, we’ve rounded up information on available end-to-end encryption chatting options, from opt-in features for some of the most popular social media platforms, to lesser-known chat applications focused specifically on private discussions.
WhatsApp is a popular end-to-end encryption chat choice that doesn’t require any extra steps to use the feature. As long as you and the chat recipient are both using the latest version of the app, the messages you exchange will be automatically end-to-end encrypted.
WhatsApp provides two different ways to confirm the encryption: a QR code or a 60-digit number. To access these, first open your chat, then tap the name of the contact. This will take you to the contact information page. There, tap “Encryption” and you’ll see the QR code and the 60-digit number. One of the parties can scan the other’s QR code, or you can compare the 60-digit number on each of your screens and make sure it’s the same.
Facebook debuted its version of end-to-end encrypted chats in 2016. The feature, called Secret Conversations, is only available through the Messenger app. To use it, open the Facebook Messenger app on your iOS or Android device. In iOS, click the pencil on paper icon in the top right, then “Secret.” Choose your recipient and type your message! You have the option to click the clock icon in your text box to set a timer for a certain duration, after which the message will disappear. For Android, choose the contact you’d like to mention, then click the blue i button in the top right. Then click “Go to Secret Conversation.” You’ll similarly have the option to set a timer before you send.
[For more details on Secret Conversations, read How To Encrypt Your Facebook Messenger Conversations.]
Facebook also allows you to confirm the encryption through a device key. To see your key, select a Secret Conversation, tap the contact’s name and click “Device Keys.” For Android, click the i icon at the top of the screen after you’ve opened your chat. Then, you can compare the key with the recipient’s key to make sure they match.
Skype announced introduction of an end-to-end encryption feature in January — currently only available as a preview for Skype Insiders. The feature is available for audio calls and text messages, and to send image, audio and video files, but not for video chats. For those with insider access, it’s easy to use: Head to the compose menu or your intended chat partner’s profile page and select “New Private Conversation.” All you need is for your invitation to the contact to be accepted, and further applicable correspondences will be protected.
[Devoted Skype user? Learn more on how to Increase Your Skype Security.]
While not as recognizable a name as Whatsapp, Facebook or Skype, Signal’s encryption technology is actually used by the latter two applications. You can skip the middleman and use Signal directly for encrypted chats — if you’re seriously concerned about protecting your correspondence, Signal is probably the best option out there.
Similarly to Whatsapp, you don’t have to enable the feature specifically. As long as you and the recipient both have the app — easily downloadable for iOS, Android and Desktop–correspondances will be encrypted. With Signal, you can also set your messages to disappear after an allotted amount of time.
Wickr offers end-to-end encrypted chats between two users that have the Wickr app. Like other apps, it allows you to send messages that disappear from record on the recipient’s phone. Wickr communications are encrypted with a key that is for all intents and purposes unbreakable: according to the Wickr website, “breaking just one key would take trillions of years to decipher.”