When it comes to talking about messaging apps, Signal is one of the oldest that we can find on the mobile scene, although not the oldest. Its creation is curious because although it dates from 2015, its origins go back five years before, and although has always offered advantages over its competitors, especially in terms of privacy and security, has never become a mass service in the style of WhatsApp and company.
Despite everything, the app has been a pioneer in some areas such as the aforementioned privacy and security. Without going further, your encryption system, designed years before the app by its own creators, has been used by WhatsApp itself. So, we are going to try to explain what Signal is, some of its history and what functionalities and advantages it offers.
A little history about Signal
Signal was created by Matthew Rosenfeld, also known by his pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike and a computer security specialist or hacker. His company, Open Whisper Systems, was not the first to create its business activity dates back to 2010, five years before the arrival of Signal itself, when he created Whisper Systems with Stuart Anderson, a specialist in robotics.
Signal has one of the most powerful encryption of the moment and the app is open source
Rosenfeld and Anderson were the creators of TextSecure, a messaging application that was launched in 2010 and that already contained an encryption algorithm that was refined over time. TextSecure evolved over time, to such an extent that the company was bought by Twitter in 2013 and its main creator, Marlinspike, then founded the new Open Whister Systems to continue the developments.
As we say, TextSecure evolved and reached a point, in 2015, that no longer allowed to send only text messages but also allowed to encrypt voice messages as well as attachments. It was the moment when TextSecure changed its name to Signal, the app we know today, and its protocol is still considered the most powerful encryption of the moment in the world of messaging.
So much so that WhatsApp, to name the most recognizable competitor, adopted TextSecure just one year after the “official” arrival of Signal, in 2016 in a collaborative project between WhatsApp itself, Facebook and Open Whisper Systems. So WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is based on the makers of Signal’s TextSecure, and it’s still as secure as it was then.
One of the most striking features of Signal is that it is an open source app whose code is available on GitHub both in its mobile versions (iOS and Android) and in its desktop version. This is how its creators wanted it with the founding of their new company, whose name “Open” was not by chance.
Signal, the messaging app that shows off your security and privacy
As we have discussed previously, Signal makes TextSecure and inherits, logically, its encryption algorithm. An algorithm that applies to all its processes without the need for users to activate it, something that has also happened with WhatsApp since the implementation of the latter. All information transactions through Signal are automatically encrypted, regardless of what type of data circulates between chats or groups on the platform.
The operation of Signal is very similar to that of other messaging apps, with a user dialed by the phone number (there are no substitute user names here, only names for information purposes) and, yes, with a PIN that is automatically associated with our user and that it will be used to encrypt absolutely all data transactions with the app. The pin can be modified whenever we want, from the settings of our user through an app that we already have registered and in use.
Once we have saved this first step of registration and creation of our user, with the contribution of a profile photograph through (to which we can blur the face if we wish), we can start using Signal. Although the use of the app does not differ from that of others of its competition since we will have the possibility of sending text messages, audio, video and attachments of all kinds, in addition to being able to send contacts from our agenda and even our position in real time. As we can see, very similar to that of competing apps such as Telegram, WhatsApp and company.
It is worth highlighting privacy options that Signal adds to our daily use, and that can be found in the ‘Privacy’ section of the scrollable sidebar options of the app. For example:
- Screen lock: It allows activating that Signal is protected after our phone PIN or after the fingerprint. Thus, the app will only be opened by the owner of the phone or someone authorized.
- Screen lock idle time: This sets how long it takes after you stopped using Signal for it to lock again after PIN or fingerprint.
- Screen security: to prevent us from taking screenshots, neither from within the app itself nor from the app preview that multitasks on the phone.
- Incognito keyboard: It prevents the keyboard from learning from what we type in Signal, that is, it does not know what words we type or in what order.
In addition to all this, in Signal we find the possibility of activate message self-destruct that we send with a countdown that will start from the moment they are read, and we can also make the messages disappear (all) once a certain time has passed. We also have voice calls and group voice chats.
Maybe Signal is the safest messaging app that we can find right now
As we can see, Signal is a fairly complete app that presumes, as we have commented previously, to be the safest. It is based on the fact that it uses the TextSecure protocol and that, unlike WhatsApp, it incorporates extra security and privacy functions. Hence public figures such as Edward snowden recommended her in her day, or that others like Elon musk have caused, with a single tweet, that their growth has skyrocketed in a percentage of up to four figures.
Signal is a free messaging app although it accepts donations volunteers of its users to continue subsisting. We can find it both in the application store of Android as in that of iOS, and it also has a desktop version that we can download for MacOS, for Windows and to Linux, in addition to having a web-app for ChromeOS.
Signal – Private Messaging
was originally published in