Why you should stop texting from your Android messaging app
A little ironically, just as the backlash against Facebook continues for its forced change of conditions on 2 billion WhatsApp users, Google once again seems to have gone unnoticed. Now, hundreds of millions of Android users have to decide who to trust with their data, given recent harvest revelations.
Android Messages attempts to correct the main security flaws in its architecture. But after launching beta improvements last year, Google confirmed to me that there are still no public dates for an actual platform update and that these improvements are still severely limited. . Until that changes, you should switch to an alternative.
Meanwhile, the number of affected users is increasing as Android Messages becomes the default for many Samsung users, replacing its own Messages app, expand Google’s user base as its RCS rollout continues.
So here’s a critical reminder that not all messengers are the same. You should use one that encrypts end-to-end by default:do not SMS, do not Facebook Messenger, do not Telegram, and do not Android messages.
Android Messages is basically an SMS client which has been upgraded for RCS. This is the updated version of SMS, supporting chat and rich media features that are now common on other messengers.
While RCS was intended as an SMS upgrade that would be rolled out by the same mobile networks that run the SMS ecosystem, Google has essentially taken control by catching up with Apple’s iMessage.
SMS have terribly poor security. And RCS was critical for the same – a fragmented architecture with too many points of failure, risking account hijacking … “allowing hackers to intercept and manipulate communication”.
As Google increasingly running the RCS ecosystem has ramped up its deployment, it has also fixed some of the security issues. But RCS – Google or whatever – isn’t end-to-end encrypted at all, whatever by default, and that makes it a no-no of security.
“The lessons of the past five years clearly show that technology companies and governments must prioritize private and secure communication.” WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart mentionned last month. He warned that full encryption was “essential”, that there was “serious pressure to remove it”, that it “should not be taken for granted”.
If you want to know how critical end-to-end encryption is, just look at WhatsApp’s defense against Facebook’s backlash. Don’t worry, he said, your content is safe from Facebook, WhatsApp, or anyone else because it’s end-to-end encrypted. In contrast, Facebook has admitted in the past to monitoring Messenger content.
WhatsApp has warned its users that “if an app doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default, it means they can read your messages.” And leaving WhatsApp on Facebook data sharing and opting for Android messages would be security nonsense.
“End-to-end encryption is now the way most messages are sent around the world,” Cathcart said in his opinion piece. “Should people be able to have a private conversation when they’re not together in person?” I think the answer must be yes. End-to-end encryption prevents technology companies from accessing particularly sensitive information. Will we be able to have a private conversation, or will someone always be listening? “
The statement came at a difficult time for Facebook, which has just admitted that its plans to fully encrypt its own Messenger platform are running later than expected – don’t expect progress on that front. before next year “at the earliest”.
For its part, Google launched a beta version of end-to-end encryption for Android messages last year. But it’s very limited. Only individual messaging, no group, and both ends of the chat clearly need to have the beta installed. Google told me it would explore options for “later” groups and that there were no public dates yet to move beyond beta.
“We recognize that your conversations are private and it is our responsibility to protect your personal information,” Google said when announcing the beta. “End-to-end encryption ensures that no one, including Google and third parties, can read the content of your messages as they flow between your phone and the phone of the person you’re messaging with.” So why would you use anything else?
On Android in particular, there is no excuse for continuing to use less secure options. Unlike iOS, Android users can select a different default messenger than the original operating system. You can choose to use Signal instead of Android Messages, which will handle both your SMS and Signal traffic, the same way iMessage works.
This means that every time your contacts have Signal installed – and this is a number that is growing rapidly, you will automatically go for a secure message. Forget Android messages, it’s the closest to Apple’s iMessage. SMS and secure messages in one app, easy distinction between the two, 1: 1 encryption and group messages, fully created chat functions.
Cathcart is right: encryption has never been more important or more threatened. And while many users don’t consider the security of their messages to be important – there are 1.3 billion Facebook Messenger users after all, I hope those reading this article will get a sense of the importance of the security and confidentiality of their data.
And remember, it’s not just the content that matters, the metadata, the data on your data – who, when, how often of your posts, is a data gold mine. Encryption aside, the more we remove our data and communications from the default options of Facebook and Google, the more brakes we apply – however small – to this galloping data collection train. This is your personal information, please take it seriously.
“Imagine if your government, or a foreign government, could see every transaction you made,” WhatsApp’s Cathcart asked, “or if your boss could see every text message you wrote or photo you sent. This is the biggest risk of all.
Yes, imagine. There is obviously an absolute irony with this disclaimer. No matter “your government,” Cathcart describes Facebook, the company he works for, much better. But the same goes for Google.
As always, you have what you need to make an informed decision. And, as always, unless millions of users choose apps and platforms that genuinely prioritize their privacy and security, what imperative do we put big tech to change?