When it comes to messaging apps, Signal is one of the oldest to be found in the mobile scene, but 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 confidentiality and security, never became a massive service in the style of WhatsApp and the business.
Even so, the app was a pioneer in some areas, such as the aforementioned privacy and security. Without going any further, your encryption system, designed years before the app by its own creators, has been used by WhatsApp itself. So we will try to explain what Signal is, part of its history and what features and benefits it offers.
A little history on Signal
Signal was created by Matthew Rosenfeld, also known by his pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike and a computer security speci alist or hacker. His company, Open Whisper Systems, was not the first to create its commercial activity dates back to 2010
Signal has one of the strongest encryption around and the app is open source
Rosenfeld and Anderson were the creators of TextSecure, a messaging app launched in 2010 that already contained an encryption algorithm refined over time. TextSecure has evolved over time to such an extent that the company was acquired by Twitter in 2013 and its main creator, Marlinspike, then founded the new Open Whister Systems to continue the developments.
As we say, TextSecure has evolved and reached a point, in 2015, which no longer allowed to send only text messages, but also 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 strongest encryption around in the messaging world today.
So much so that WhatsApp, to name just the most recognizable competitor, adopted TextSecure just a year after Signal’s “official” arrival, in 2016 in a collaborative project between WhatsApp itself, Facebook and Open Whisper Systems. WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is therefore based on the makers of Signal’s TextSecure, and it’s still as secure as it was back then.
One of the most striking features of Signal is that it is an open source application 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 creation of their new company, whose name “Open” was not by chance.
Signal, the messaging app that shows your security and privacy
As we saw previously, Signal creates TextSecure and inherits, logically, its encryption algorithm. An algorithm that applies to all of its processes without users needing to activate it, which has also happened with WhatsApp since its implementation. All information transactions via Signal are automatically encrypted, regardless of the type of data circulating 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 (here there are no alternate usernames, only names for informational purposes) and, yes , with a PIN code automatically associated with our user
Like many other apps, Signal has the phone number in the center and that, along with the security PIN, is our connection
Once we have recorded this first step of registering and creating our user, with the input of a profile photo through (on which we can blur the face if we wish), we can start using Signal. Although the use of the application does not differ from that of other of its competitors 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 like Telegram, WhatsApp and Enterprise.
It is worth pointing out privacy options that Signal adds to our daily usage, and this can be found in the “ Privacy ” section of the app’s drop-down sidebar options. For example:
- Screen lock: Allows you to activate Signal protection after your phone PIN code or after your fingerprint. Thus, the application will only be opened by the owner of the phone or an authorized person.
- Screen lock idle time: This sets the time it takes since you stopped using Signal for it to lock again after the PIN or fingerprint.
- Screen Security: to prevent us from taking screenshots, neither from the app itself nor from the multitasking app preview on the phone.
- Private browsing keyboard: This prevents the keyboard from learning what we are writing in Signal, i.e. it does not know what words we are writing and in what order.
In addition to all this, in Signal we find the possibility of activate self-destruction of the message which we send with a countdown that will start from the moment they are read, and we can also make (all) messages disappear after a certain time has passed. We also have voice calls and group voice chats.
Maybe Signal is the safest messaging app we can find right now
As we can see, Signal is a fairly complete application that assumes, as we have previously commented, to be the safest. It is based on the fact that it uses the TextSecure protocol and unlike WhatsApp, it has additional security and privacy features built in. Hence public figures such as Edward Snowden recommended him in their day, or that others like Elon Musk caused, with just one tweet, that his growth exploded by a percentage of up to four digits.
The signal is a free messaging app although it accepts donations volunteers of its users to continue to exist. We can find it in the Android and iOS app stores, and it also has a desktop version that we can download for macOS, Windows, and Linux, as well as a web app for ChromeOS.