Software

Signal Private Messenger is a Secure IM Alternative to Telegram

Signal Private Messenger
Written by Jesse Afolabi

Instant messaging has become the standard means of communication in our world today. Whatsapp is leading — reaching over a billion active users as of February 2016, while WeChat, Telegram, and Messenger are following closely behind with millions of users around the world.

Telegram boasts of an encryption standard (MTProto protocol) that is highly secure and just recently, Whatsapp also introduced some sort of proprietary encryption to its messaging platform – both of these standards can’t be inspected for flaws, however, Telegrams’ has been put to the test more than a few times via a security contest which it passed flawlessly time and again.

Telegram today stands as the most secure platform of the bunch and while its clients across all platforms are open-source (allowing just about anyone to inspect the code), its encryption standard is not.

Signal (by Open Whisper Systems), on the other hand, is open about everything right from its codebase to its encryption protocols and implementation – which in essence, is the beauty of FOSS freedom.

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Read also: Alternative IM Clients For Whatsapp, Messenger, and Telegram on Linux

How do Telegram and Signal differ?

While Telegram is a secure IM platform, it backs up your chat history (by default) to its servers scattered around the world for speed and security – each and every message you send are highly encrypted so you need not worry for the most part – but then, if you’re paranoid, there’s a “secret chat” option that can self-destruct when you leave a chat without logging your convo on their server.

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Signal then again, doesn’t log your data in any way (except those locally stored) – it basically provides a secure medium through which your messages are transmitted and nothing is stored on their servers.

This enables Signal to provide its services at absolutely no cost as there’s never or will there ever be the need to store your data online thereby eliminating the exorbitant cost of maintaining multiple servers or providing new ones.

Signals’ service is completely free to use and mainly relies on donations from users like you whereas Telegram is backed by its founder (Pavel Durov) whose main source of income is vk.com (a social network common in some parts of Europe and Russia).

While Signal isn’t as extensive as Telegram in functionality, you get the most basic benefits of a secure platform which is being able to send your SMS/MMS sand make calls securely without a third party/ISP interfering or intercepting.

Set up Signal on your Smartphone and PC

Signal doesn’t have a native client for Linux or any other desktop platform for that matter but can still be used effectively via the official Chrome app (currently in beta) available on the Chrome Webstore.

First and foremost, you’d have to download the Android app from the Play Store after which you’d register with your phone number and import your SMS/MMS from the default messaging app on your device and replace Signal as the new messaging client on your smartphone (if you so please).

  Alternative IM Clients For Whatsapp, Messenger, and Telegram on Linux

Next proceed to download the Chrome app from the Chrome Webstore open it and follow the prompts and you should be set up and ready to go in no time.

signal get started

signal get started

signal install android

signal install android

signal qr code

signal qr code

Signal setup

Signal setup

signal loading

signal loading

signal chrome

signal chrome

It is worth noting that Signal on the desktop doesn’t support the secure call function and will only work in sync with your Android device; iPhone owners won’t be able to enjoy this feature at this time….but not-to-worry, support for iOS is underway so you can check their GitHub regularly for updates.

Also, Signal on the desktop will not sync your old chat history on your smartphone before the time you had it installed on your PC and it’s recommended that you use the Chrome browser or its open source cousin Chromium. On the other hand, Vivaldi works equally well — since it based off Chromium.

Have you tried Signal in the past? How was your experience? Kindly share it with us in the comments below.

Thanks to eMcE for the tip. Got a tip? Submit here.

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About the author

Jesse Afolabi

Jesse is that tech enthusiast you never heard of...he's mainly into things relating to Linux and Android and has an unending passion for both platforms which is why he writes about them.

  • eMcE

    Nice article 🙂 And you’re welcome 😀

    • Jesse Afolabi

      Thanks 🙂

  • Rédo Pulabi

    My girlfriend uses an iPhone, and we had to stop using Signal because the data transfer was ridiculously high on her end. Several MBs for just a few text messages. We now use Threema, which is at least as secure (but not FOSS).

    • Jesse Afolabi

      it could have been something else….did you at least investigate?

      • Rédo Pulabi

        Yes, I did some quick research back then, this is a common complaint. Maybe the encryption algorithm isn’t efficient? With Threema, similar text messages use a fraction of the bandwidth.

        • Jesse Afolabi

          now that’d be extremely weird cause i don’t experience the same with the Android client or the chrome app for that matter…maybe the iOS app still needs some optimization or at worse, could be a data sucking bug…you should report the issue to the devs here: (https://github.com/WhisperSystems/Signal-Desktop/issues) so they may look into it…also, an open system is always the best way to go and as much as threema boasts of a solid encryption, i’d still take signal or telegram ( which are absolutely free) over threema anytime…..in a nutshell, i’d recommend you use telegram for now, it’s fast, crossplatform, and has a self-destruct (for messages) feature built in for extra security..

          • Rédo Pulabi

            I know you like FOSS, but I’d choose Threema over Telegram any day of the week. Telegram’s encryption is homebrew and generally considered weak (see Wikipedia’s article on Telegram). Threema, on the other hand, deploys NaCl, a time-tested open source library. Self-destruction of messages is a gimmick and doesn’t provide any real security, if you ask me. All it does is encourage users to take screenshots of potentially sensitive information.

          • Jesse Afolabi

            I get your point but Telegram’s encryption method has been put to the test more than a few times and has very well passed flawlessly..it’s still up for a debate however, and thorough test whether Threema’s NaCl protocol is better than Telegram’s MTProto..

  • Marcus Cole

    Nice Post. Would love to suggest the private and secure instant messaging software Output Messenger ( http://www.outputmessenger.com/ ) here. It is suitable for all businesses and has a lot of instant messaging solutions to improve the team collaboration.

    • Jesse Afolabi

      Thanks Marcus, will defo check it out.. xD

      • Marcus Cole

        Great Jesse!

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