When you send messages using your cell phone’s built in messaging app you are using SMS messages. These messages are the equivelant of a postcard you send in the mail. Anything you write on a postcard can be read by whoever handles it while it is being delivered to your intended recipient. A postcard has no way to prevent anyone in possesion of it from reading what you have written. In exactly the same way your SMS messages are not protected at all and anyone who handles your SMS message as it is being delivered can read the contents of your message.
If you prefer to send letters enclosed in an envolope so that only the intended recipient can read it, then that is why you need to install an app like Signal to protect your chats. In fact using Signal is even more secure than a regular letter. Anyone could be malicious and open your letter to someone else and read the contents. But then the recipient would know it has been read from the damage to the envelope. But using Signal is like putting that letter inside of a box locked with a key that only you and the recipient have and then sending that box through the mail. No one handling the locked box can access the letter to attempt to read it. Secure messaging apps like Signal guarantee the privacy of the messages you are sending.
I have chosen Signal as the first step towards protecting your chats because it is very easy to use and works almost identical to the way you are already sending SMS messages. You use phone numbers to contact people over Signal just like SMS. Signal is also one of the most widely used secure messaging apps and has some of the most advanced encryption methods to guarentee the privacy of your messages.
First head on over to the official Signal install guide and install the app on your Android or Apple iOS phone. Then return here and I will give you some additional tips.
Follow the official Signal install guide
OK now that you have Signal installed you can invite others to install Signal to chat securely with you. Open one of the previous SMS chat sessions you have with someone and there will be a message at the top prompting you to invite this person to Signal. Click on this prompt and a link will be created to send to them (using SMS for now). Maybe send them a link to this website too!
Once they have installed Signal you should get a message that informs you they have joined Signal and now you can chat with them.
Here are some additional features in Signal:
Great job, if you made it this far you are doing very well! Now you have taken a giant step towards protecting your information. You can stop here if you want and take time to get comfortable with using Signal as your new messaging app. Or you may continue on and get some additional guides on more advanced methods of protecting your chats.
Signal is a great app but it does have one major drawback. To communicate you must give other people your phone number to connect with them over Signal. That was part of the design of Signal to make it easy to use. For friends and family that you already communicate with using your phone number that is fine. But what if you don’t want to give your phone number to someone but still want to communicate securely with them? There are other great options available for doing this so you don’t need to expose your phone number, and this is a site about protecting your information after all right?
So to continue on there is one important question you must think about. Will you be chatting using your phone exclusively, or would you like to be able to chat using multiple devices (even a desktop computer) and have all your chats available on all devices? So think of this as being the difference between only being able to get SMS messages on your phone, and being able to log into a social network (like Facebook) from anywhere and being able to continue a conversation from multiple devices.
Some apps can only be used on a single device while others can be used on multiple devices. The selection of apps for multiple devices is smaller, but this option is more convienient if you are switching between desktop computers and phones throughout your day.
I will only use one device
I want to use multiple devices