Video Chat Options

Step-by-step guides and detailed information on secure messaging apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux.

With most of the world now staying at home, many people are looking for ways to maintain connections with friends and family. Be careful which products you use, not all are safe. Here are my recommendations based on knowledge of the technologies these products use and my personal experience. In choosing these products I am looking for something that is:

How do you want to connect with people?

Group video and audio calls (No account needed)

Whereby

This is a great choice for small groups of 4 or less. Audio and video is end to end encrypted and either sent directly from device to device or through the Whereby TURN server.

  • Up to 4 participants in a meeting (Temporarily up to 50 participants until Jan 8, 2021)
  • Guests do not need to sign up for an account or download any software
  • The meeting host can lock the room so any guests must "knock" and be let in before they can participate
  • You get a personal room address that does not change
  • Screen sharing feature and group chat
  • Servers located around the world

Whereby website


Jitsi Meet

Jitsi Meet is an open source video conferencing system that can be setup on your own server or you can use a server provided by one of many organizations. Data is encrypted from your device to the server, however it is decrypted on the server so be sure to use a server you trust. Here are some features and benefits of this product:

  • No account needed
  • Screen sharing and presentations
  • Etherpad integration
  • Applications available for desktop and mobile devices. On Android using the F-Droid version is recommended.
  • Servers located all around the world.

Recommended servers:

If you are setting up your own Meet server, here are instructions from Mike Kuketz on how to make your server even better for privacy.

Jitsi Meet website


Group video and audio calls and instant messaging (Account signup required)

Signal

For communicating with people who already know your phone number Signal is a great option. It can be used for individual instant messages that are fully encrypted as well. Group calls are limited to 5 people.

  • Available for Android and iOS with companion apps on MacOS, Windows and Linux (Debian)
  • Chat or call with other Signal users individually or in group rooms
  • Up to 5 participants in groups calls, 150 participants in group text chats
  • Works on mobile and desktop
  • Fully end to end encrypted
  • Be aware that your phone number is your ID and will be known to anyone you connect with on Signal

Signal website

My Signal review

Wickr Pro

Wickr Pro is normally used for businesses, but they are now offering free accounts for anyone. To use this product everyone must register themselves for an account using an email address. Wickr Pro offers instant messages and instant calling and video chat to one or more other Wickr Pro users.

  • Available for Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows and Linux (via Snap)
  • Chat or call with other Wickr Pro users individually or in group rooms
  • Up to 30 participants in a video chat
  • Multiple people can be designated as admins to a room and fully control who can enter a room
  • Fully encrypted and secure
  • Be aware that the email you signed up with is your ID so anyone you connect with in WickrPro will know this email address
  • Shares all other secure features with WickrMe, see my WickrMe review

Download Wickr Pro

How to use Wickr Pro video conferencing


One on one video and audio calls on phones

Threema

Threema is a very secure messenger based in Switzerland. You can have individual and groups chats as well as one-on-one video calls. This is a paid app, however the one time cost is very reasonable at about the price of one coffee.

  • Available for Android and iOS
  • Chat with other Threema users individually or in group rooms
  • Up to 100 participants in group text chats
  • Fully end to end encrypted
  • If purchased through the Play Store or Apple App Store no personal information is needed. There is also an option to purchase directly on the website, which does require giving personal information and payment method.
  • Depending on the level of trust between contacts video calls will be either relayed through a TURN server (unverified contacts) or relayed directly between devices (verified contacts).

Threema website

My Threema review

TwinMe

TwinMe is another option that can do instant messaging with individuals or in groups, but it can only do video and audio calls with one person.

  • Available for Android and iOS
  • End to end encryption
  • Chats and calls go directly from source device to target device. The TwinMe servers are only used for devices to initially find each other.
  • No personal information needs to be provided to use the app

TwinMe website

My TwinMe review


Other resources

Are you now working from home and need advice on security? See the SANS Security Awareness Work-from-Home Kit


Final note: Avoid Zoom!

Zoom is not secure and there have been many problems discovered with the software. The FBI has issued a warning not to use Zoom for any meetings which may be considered confidential (medical, business). If you must use Zoom, here is how to use Zoom safely.

Some articles on Zoom security: