The Best Encrypted Messaging Apps (Private and Team Messengers)
Encrypted Messaging apps are in high demand. As smartphones and cloud technology become more pervasive and the amount of transmitted data soars, so too skyrockets the necessity for secure communication.
By now, you’ve heard of encryption. You likely use an encrypted messaging app privately or even a secure team communication tool at work.
As instant messaging technology is so widely used, both personally and professionally, it’s critical to take measures to protect your data, especially as governments, cybercriminals and even big tech themselves are all vying to get their hands on it.
Encrypted messaging is one of the best ways to safeguard yourself.
The app(s) you ultimately choose will depend largely on why you’re chatting; for work and collaboration purposes, or for fun.
In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on encryption, why you should use an encrypted chat app, how to get started with your app of choice and most importantly, the best messaging apps for encrypted private and team chat. Read on!
What is Encryption
font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>In layman’s terms, encryption acts as a lock. It seals off your data from anyone without the key to access it.
Once you press “send” from your chat app or messaging software, your client dismantles the message for delivery to the recipient where it’s reassembled and displayed just as you sent it.
However, encryption protocols vary. With encryption in transit, messages are encrypted on the sender’s end, delivered to the server where they’re decrypted and re-encrypted, and then delivered to the recipient and decrypted again.
While this method protects information during transmission – indeed a dangerous part of the journey – it does still allow the server to see the content.
End-to-end encryption, on the other hand, applies encryption for the entire duration of the journey. It guarantees your content won’t be viewed by anyone other than the recipient, not even the client who may store your communications on their servers or those of third parties.
Why Use an Encrypted Messaging App
Encrypted messengers offer a more secure way to communicate. As real-time messaging grows in popularity, standard SMS messages aren’t completely secure all the time.
When choosing an encrypted messaging app, you may find it useful to look beyond just encryption. Let’s see what the main reasons for choosing an encrypted messaging app are!
When it comes to security, the best offense is a good defense.
Private chatting apps featuring end-to-end encryption and P2P messaging channels practically eliminate the threat of data being intercepted in transit or falling into the wrong hands due to malfeasance or vulnerabilities on the client’s side.
Privacy and security go hand in hand. In addition to the value of encryption and P2P technology, chat apps with privacy keep information and data on-premises and out of the wrong hands.
An encrypted chat app on its own network is one of the best ways to guarantee your information flows between participants authorized to access that data.
A common issue associated with messenger apps is suitability within the workplace. To combat this, many instant messaging apps for businesses provide more robust administrative control.
With Brosix, for example, you can manage everything from user access to the platform, to shared chat spaces, access to features on a user basis and individual data security levels.
This granular-level control and contact management better focus your team, mitigating instances where employees might wander in their communication and improve team collaboration.
Getting Started with an Encrypted Chat App
Getting set up with an encrypted chat app is easy. Just like other messenger apps, choose your platform, download the app to your device and complete the verification process, usually by confirming your phone number or email address.
Many apps automatically sync your contacts who also use the app. Once synced, just touch or click the contact with whom you wish to communicate, and you’re ready to chat!
The Most Secure Encrypted Messaging Apps
Here are the top 10 encrypted messaging apps that ensure safety and privacy without compromising the efficacy of your communication.
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Web
Each Brosix Network is fully encrypted and packed with robust administrative features, making it one of the most secure and customizable options available to protect team communication.
Brosix takes a multi-tiered approach to security. The AES 256-bit encryption algorithm encrypts communication end-to-end on established peer-to-peer channels, ensuring data and information flow directly between the sender and recipient. For added peace of mind, you can even integrate your anti-virus and malware software.
Define your Team Network as you see fit from the Web Control Panel. Manage, on a user-level, everything from access to the platform and features to contact lists, shared chat spaces, API integrations and data security levels. You can even delegate admin duties for greater efficiency.
This puts you in charge of Brosix’s rich communication and collaboration spaces. You can text-chat directly or in team chat rooms, broadcast messages to handpicked audiences, and make crystal clear audio and video calls. Share your screen and grant remote desktop access, safely transfer files of any size and carry out dynamic virtual whiteboard presentations.
This all makes Brosix not only one of the best chat apps for business, but also one of the most secure encrypted chat apps around.
Brosix pricing: Free Startup plan for up to 3 users; $4 per user/month for the Business plan and; $6 per user/month for the Premium plan.
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux
Signal Messenger is a combination of two separate apps originally dedicated to encrypted voice communication and encrypted texting. Created by Whisper Systems and later acquired by Twitter to enhance its own encryption and security protocol, Signal features (ironically) both Edward Snowden and members of the U.S. Senate among its clientele.
Signal not only encrypts chats end-to-end by default, but also makes its encryption and source code available to all for examination. The open-source encrypted messaging app also hides virtually all metadata including the message sender. This means neither Signal nor anyone who intercepts a message in transit can tell who’s sending you Signal messages or who has read any messages.
Signal has been criticized for requiring you to register with a phone number. Despite this, the non-profit Signal Foundation recently received a $50 million investment from WhatsApp founder, Brian Action, boosting Signal’s commitment to remain a totally free encrypted chat app – free of charge, free of advertisements and web-tracking free. It’s one of the best private chat apps.
For more, check out our recent in-depth Signal review.
Signal pricing: Free
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS, Linux
Keeping up with the demand for encrypted messaging apps, Viber has recently hit a billion users, 820 million of which are active each month.
Developed by a former Israeli intelligence officer, with Viber you get similar features to WhatsApp – encrypted texting, group chats, voice and video calls and the ability to send stickers, emojis, photos, files and short voice and video messages.
For the security-conscious, Viber offers a few nifty features. The free encrypted chat app color-codes chats to denote their level of protection – gray for encrypted communication with a trusted contact and red to signify an issue with the encryption key. For hiding messages on a shared device, Viber provides hidden chats with PIN access and self-destructing capabilities.
Viber pricing: Free; reduced rates for calls to non-Viber users
Available on: Windows, Windows Phone, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Web
Telegram offers plenty for those in search of a secure private chat app.
For starters, there’s a secret chat mode and you can set messages to self-destruct. You can share unlimited photos, videos and files. Cloud-based infrastructure lets you sync messages between multiple devices, meaning that Telegram features are available wherever you log in.
That said, while there is end-to-end encryption, it isn’t the default. You have to turn it on manually, and that could lull you into a false sense of security. What’s more, while the client-side code is open-source, Telegram’s encryption protocol is homegrown and unverified by experts.
If Telegram isn’t secure enough for you, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with this list of Telegram alternatives.
Telegram pricing: Free
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS, Web
WhatsApp hasn’t always been among the most secure chat apps. However the popular messenger added end-to-end encryption in 2016.
WhatsApp offers encrypted chats, group messaging, free voice and video calls, and the ability to leave short voice and video messages. You also get encrypted photo and file sharing. For extra security, WhatsApp gives you the ability to verify each chat’s security verification code.
Despite sharing its encryption protocol with Signal, WhatsApp has exhibited frequent security flaws and vulnerabilities. What’s more, links to WhatsApp group chats have been found on Google.
Regardless, WhatsApp’s ubiquity – more than 2 billion worldwide users – makes it the most popular encrypted messaging app around.
WhatsApp pricing: Free
Available on: Android and iOS
Wickr offers both a private chat app (Wickr Me) and an encrypted solution for business. Wickr’s federated messaging allows you to chat between Me and its business counterpart.
Wickr Me gets you encrypted private messaging, file sharing and custom self-destructing configurations. A shredder permanently deletes chats and shared media content from your device. Video key verification adds an extra layer of security.
Wickr Pro adds on conference calls, screen sharing, larger rooms and file sizes, data retention and admin controls on a private network. There’s also an option to self-host, but keep in mind it’ll cost you more than $30 per month…not cheap for small to mid-sized businesses.
Wickr pricing: Free for private use and small teams up to 30 users; from $4.99 user/month up to $25 user/month
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Web
Threema is another paid service, at $10.99 per user per month. However this encrypted chat app doesn’t require a phone number or email address to get started. Instead, Threema provides a unique Threema ID, meaning you can use the app completely anonymously. Scannable QR codes let you verify other users and add contacts more securely and conveniently.
Threema fully encrypts texting, group chats, voice calls and file transfers. Furthermore, upon delivery, Threema immediately wipes this data from the servers. There’s even a polling system for feedback from contacts.
Threema also offers encrypted chats for work on a separate network. There’s no video calling though, which is a shame as video chats are often a must for remote working. Check out these video calling apps in case Threema doesn’t meet your needs.
Threema pricing: $10.99 per user/month for Essential; $21.99 per user/month for Advanced; $32.99 per user/month for Professional
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Web
With both free and paid options, Wire is another secure service for you to try. Unlike other encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, Wire’s encryption is always on so your data is always protected.
An open-source platform, Wire’s source code is available on GitHub for users to critique and improve. In fact, as a publicly audited app, you can even download audit reports from Wire’s website.
Wire Personal lets you have encrypted private or group conversations, share files, set messages to self-destruct and make voice and video calls. Pro and Enterprise plans get you conferencing, API integrations, cloud-based or on-premise deployment and secure guest rooms where you can communicate with outside clients and partners. For what it’s worth, Wire doesn’t require a phone number to get started.
All that said, Personal, or the free app, is buried so deep in their website that you may have to do a separate Google search to find it. What’s more, unlike encrypted software apps for business, such as Brosix, Wire’s business offerings don’t afford you a high level of administrative control.
For more, explore our recent article on Wire.
Wire pricing: Free; from $7.65 per user/month for Basic; custom pricing for Government
Available on: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Web
Mattermost is an open-source encrypted chat app for business. When you download it, you can add encryption – in transit and at rest – on both communication and server levels. That means even stored messages and files are better protected from malicious hackers and data thieves.
You can customize languages in the UI, tailor the mobile app, custom-build emojis and personalize the branding and login page.
Communication happens via direct messages or in groups through public and private channels. You also get voice and video capabilities, screen sharing and a host of open-source integrations.
Mattermost pricing: Free; $10 for Professional; custom pricing for Enterprise
Available on: Android, iOS
The walkie-talkie app uses the same encryption protocols as Signal. But, like Telegram, it’s only available on private chats and you’ll need to opt in.
There’s a voice-to-text transcription and you can play back messages at your convenience, just like voicemail. In addition to one-on-one messaging, Voxer supports group chats for up to 500 people. You can also send and receive photos, videos and location messages.
Voxer is a free app. But you’ll need a Pro plan to unlock the walkie-talkie, while a Business subscription gets you admin-controlled chats, unlimited message history and a private network.
Voxer pricing: Free; Pro from $3.99 user/month; Business from $6 user/month
Which Encrypted Messaging App Should You Choose?
The number of encrypted messaging apps on the market today doesn’t make your choice easy. There’s a lot to keep in mind. To recap, consider the following:
- The nature of your chats – The basis of your communication will determine whether you should go for encrypted messaging software for business or a free, personal-grade app. For the latter, keep in mind where your contacts chat. An app is useless if your contacts aren’t there.
- The nature of the encryption – Encryption can’t protect you if you don’t know you have to turn it on, not to mention if your data at rest isn’t encrypted. So consider whether you need to opt in, turn on the encryption manually, or if the encryption is end-to-end.
- Advanced features – Unlimited secure file transfers, screen sharing with remote desktop and advanced control options enable processes such as team collaboration and remotetech support. Many free apps don’t have these features.
- Price – While consumer-grade apps are free, encrypted messengers for business will cost you. However prices for self-hosting, advanced collaboration and control features vary. So weigh the features you need against the cost you’re able to pay.
If you’re looking for an end-to-end encrypted messaging app for business, try Brosix. A highly secure and customizable platform, Brosix not only guarantees absolute data privacy and security but grants you total control over the communication process.