Protecting text messages – A guide to online safety

Text messages are an easy and convenient method of communication, but they also pose risks to your privacy and security if not handled carefully. With the right tools and awareness, you keep your text conversations secure. A private messenger app encrypted with encryption is the best way to protect your text messages. With encrypted messages end-to-end, it ensures only you and the recipient read them. It prevents network providers, hackers, and even the app companies directly from accessing your messages. Just be aware that with Telegram and WhatsApp, encrypted chats do not activate by default like with Signal.

Enable disappearing messages

Apps like Signal and Telegram offer a disappearing messages option that automatically deletes messages after a set period such as 24 hours or 7 days. It reduces the risk of an unauthorized person reading your texts if your phone is lost or stolen. Don’t forget that the recipient could still screenshot or copy messages before they vanish. Get creative and establish a coded shorthand system with your messaging contacts. Use abbreviations, acronyms, symbols, or even emojis to communicate pre-defined words or phrases that only you and the recipient would understand. This encryption method adds a layer of privacy.

Try ephemeral apps

Ephemeral or “self-destructing” messaging apps like Confide and Privnote allow you to set messages to automatically delete from the recipient’s device after reading. Great for sharing ultra-sensitive info, but be cautious as content still be copied before deletion. And metadata like who messaged whom may persist on company servers. Carefully consider how much confidential or compromising information to share over text messages. Details like medical conditions, legal issues, or proprietary work data are better discussed verbally or sent through more secure channels. When texting sensitive info, use a Wi-Fi connection instead of mobile data. It keeps the content off the cellular network where it could be viewed. Never send privatemessage   texts over public Wi-Fi though, as those hotspots are ripe for snooping

Use secondary devices

Consider keeping cheap secondary devices like simple phones or iPod Touches just for texting confidential information. Keep these minimal devices off your regular accounts for separation. And physically secure them when not in use. Then if lost or hacked, there’s less risk. Always password-protect your phone in case it’s lost or stolen. Use a strong PIN, passcode, shape, or even fingerprint to unlock it. Also, configure phones to auto-lock after 1-2 minutes of inactivity. Password-protect messaging apps too to add an extra layer of security.

If your Android or iOS device allows remote wiping capabilities, you can manually wipe data if the device is stolen. It is possible to remotely lock, track, or delete stolen device content through apps such as Lock My Device. It is suggested that text messages containing sensitive information be removed as soon as they are no longer needed. As a way of keeping a record of your device’s data, it is important to take a backup of your device first. Once you have deleted the texts, you should wipe the message history.

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