Do You Need Encrypted Apps to Keep Your Data Safe?

- by Natalie Stone

Where have they gotten my details from? Am I safe online? The need or desire for personal privacy versus the arguments for state security, particularly to fight terrorism threats has been in the news a lot in recent times. Do you need encrypted apps to defend your privacy? Read on with Cashfloat, a payday loan direct lender, to find out if encrypted apps are necessary.

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In the article below we shall be looking at:
  • Firstly, staying safe online
  • Secondly, what is encryption
  • Next, why do we need data security and encrypted apps
  • Then, how to implement data security
  • After, all about encrypted apps
  • Next, encrypted chat apps for Android and iPhone
  • Finally, are iPhone, Android and Google encrypted apps?

Internet security

As nearly everyone is online in some form nowadays, this is a matter which affects us all. In this article, we take an overview of online security. We will look at what data encryption is, and why it may be important for us.

Today we all communicate using online services including email, social media and data apps every day. Some of what we do online is automatically encrypted and given a high degree of security by its providers out of necessity. Online banking was one of the first sectors to address internet security for public users as a priority. We wouldn’t want anyone to be able to access our online bank, saving or loan information, would we? We want to keep our personal information private to avoid incidents of fraud. However, when it comes to our personal data on social media or other forms of communication many users do not give security and data encryption much thought. Here we will take an overview of personal privacy, encryption, why it may matter to us and how to easily adapt it to keep our personal communications private.

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Previously safe communication

Before the arrival of the internet, personal communications were largely by letter or over the telephone. Landline telephones in most instances before the arrival of mobile phone technology. The population as a whole in democratic nations took their privacy for granted and expected the government to respect their privacy.

Previously, people thought that post in the UK was safe and that the Royal Mail was sacred. In that, it would go to the intended recipient without usually being interfered with. The public accepted the fact that the police and other authorities could, in exceptional circumstances and with court authority, open letters and packets. Or tap phones to check on correspondence or conversations for security reasons. While not everyone may have liked this “snooping” by the authorities, whether they be police, MI5, MI6 or other organisations, little public interest was shown in the matter. Not only that, especially with the post, it was apparent if a letter or packet was opened before being delivered.

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Internet development – loss of privacy?

So, what has changed? Simply the digital age has transformed things. Before mobile technology arrived, anyone whether with legal authority or with criminal intent who wanted to intercept mail or calls, could only do so with a physical presence. They needed to physically intercept the package or have a competent engineer to “tap” into telegraph wires. The simply physical effort required to do this largely restricted such activity. The arrival of sophisticated digital technology has transformed our everyday lives. Bringing instant communication and connection to the internet into our homes and pockets 24/7. It has also led to many of us conducting most of our business and communications online. You can apply for a short term loan online.

It’s not unheard of for colleagues, friends and family members in the same room to message or email each other instead of taking a few steps to talk together! However, it has also given governments and their security organisations, as well as criminal gangs of hackers, the ability to monitor and intercept information with ease.

State security

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These, along with similar organisations in Russia and China are vast in their reach; GCHQ alone employs over 5,500 people charged with monitoring security and communications.

These state sponsored organisations job is to look after state security and operate against enemy nations and terrorist organisations. They fulfil the central task of governments to keep their countries safe for their citizens.

Focus of security service today

However, their main focus now is not just the shady world of James Bond types working for foreign governments or spying on commercial and scientific competitors. It is the more pernicious threat posed by terrorist organisations. This has led to a vast uplift in the sheer volume of communications monitoring happening routinely today. Technology including the wide use of satellites and wireless communications now means that people can monitor and intercept billions of messages every day. This includes our personal and confidential conversations online or via our smartphones.

Why should this bother us if we do nothing illegal? Well, it’s all about privacy, and the right to privacy those of us living in supposedly free western democracies expect.

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The simple fact is that without end to end encryption, it is possible to intercept our messages. It may not bother you if you haven’t broken the law for state organisations to hold private and personal information about you. However, it should; even so-called safe democracies can change in character. Probably more importantly there are commercial organisations out there looking to make a fast buck by exploiting one of today’s most valuable commodities – personal information. You wouldn’t want to have to get yourself some quick quid because your money was stolen by online hackers. Far worse the sophisticated criminal networks and hackers are lurking in the ether looking to steal from you or to defraud you.

Beware of hackers

So, we may want our police and security services to protect us all from horrific terrorist threats by using spying and snooping technologies to crack mobile and internet communications. However, do we want them to catch us in their net? Far worse do we want hackers and criminals to gain access to our personal and private information?

The hacker mindset doesn't actually see what happens on the other side, to the victim. -Kevin Mitnick Click To Tweet

Maybe you have your Facebook privacy setting configured to hide much of your life and keep your activity private or restricted to close friends and family. You may choose not publish your phone number, or information valuable to commercial or criminal entities such as your address and date of birth or security information such as passwords. Very sensible. But would you want your private conversations or messages about your health with your doctor published? Even an innocent private conversation with a member of your family about your mum’s maiden name could be valuable to hackers…

This means that we all need to seriously think about how to be safe online. We need to consider if our lives would be safer, and more private, if we could find a way to make sure our personal and private conversations remain just that – private. That is where end-to-end encryption, encrypted apps and communications apps come to our aid.

cashfloat explores encrypted apps

What is encryption?

At its simplest, encryption is a way of coding a message so that it is unintelligible and no one can read it if they do not know the code used to translate it back from gibberish. The code is also known as the key, as it is somewhat like a physical key being used to unlock a door.
Many of us may have played with encryption without truly realising it as children. With friends or members of our “gang,” we may have used simple codes to send notes between each other. We simply substituted different letters or numbers to make messages unreadable to anyone who didn’t know our secret code. Or have the ability to break the code.

Childhood code, exciting at the time, is relatively easy to break – also known as cracking. Take “shift 5”, a simple playground code of substituting a letter for another letter 5 spaces further into the alphabet: a becomes f, b becomes g, and so on. Friends or members of the group or gang could keep a simple note of the substitutions.

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It would help them decode message for translating back from the encoded note or gibberish into understandable English again. Anyone gaining access to a copy of the code, or even guessing a simple code, could break the secrecy and read the messages.

Developments in cryptography

Over the years, there was the development of sophisticated forms of encrypting messages. It made them more difficult for enemies or competitors to crack.

Probably the most famous was the Enigma coding used by Germany during the Second World War (WWII). The Germans invented the The Enigma system shortly after the First World War. They used the Enigma system for government and commercial communications. It used electro-mechanical cypher machines. At various times in its history Enigma was cracked partially. This lead the Germans to develop ever more complex encryption to ensure security. By the start of WWII Germany’s Enigma system provided them with a secure form of communication. They used it between the government and military leadership in Berlin with all arms of their military and diplomatic corps throughout the world. Even after the good fortune of procuring Enigma machines the code breakers at Bletchley Park (the forerunner of today’s GCHQ) were unable to de-code or break the encryption manually. This was despite employing hundreds of personnel in the venture.

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Encryption using computer technology

This led to the famous invention of the Colossus computer. It is the ancestor of today’s modern computing. People associate it with Alan Turing and colleagues who finally cracked the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park, England. Many consider that this led to an early end to WWII, saving many lives.

We can almost instantly encrypt and decrypt messages and communications nowadays with very secure and randomly generated codes. Indeed it’s successor, GCHQ, began work on encryption technologies in the 1960s. It has led to today’s state-of-the-art end-to end encryption systems. These are almost impossible to “hack” or break, as they rely on complex and random encoding, with only the sender and receiver – or their phone/computer, having access to the code. Any messages intercepted, by security services criminals or terrorists, will be totally unintelligible to them. Without the secret key required to generate the encrypted message, and in turn decipher it.

Governments challenge encrypted apps

Recently some governments, on behalf of their security organisations, have tried to challenge technology companies to divulge their security features – with little success so far. The courts have protected the public’s right to privacy in cases brought so far. Apple do not give any information on their iPhone smartphone security features, as have Blackberry. (ironically, Blackberry phones were very popular with politicians amongst other due to their encryption features which kept their messaging secure). Recently WhatsApp, has featured highly on the radar of politicians, security services, the police and the media. This is because there are reports of instances of suspected criminals and terrorist perpetrators using WhatsApp for secret communications. It is thought that terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Hezbollah, and the Taliban use WhatsApp or similar encrypted messaging systems to run their organisations and plot attacks.

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How to implement data security

If you need to send encrypted email there are facilities to do this. This may be necessary to exchange banking information, passwords, or sensitive commercial information. This or any other form of confidential information should never get sent by unencrypted email – it is just too insecure and could hackers can easily steal information.

The two main general use email platforms Gmail and Outlook do provide facilities to encrypt emails. However, these are not simple, and do have restrictions on functionality which are complicated to implement. For other general email platforms, check in the help section within the programme to see if encryption is available. Alternatively search online for dedicated encrypted email platforms. However, while these may be more secure, they may be inconvenient as you will need to use a new email address and let all your contacts know.

Many commercial organisations you deal with, including banks and retailers, may already provide security and encryption to keep your communications with them safe – within their websites. Always remember to check for the “HTTPS” prefix and locked padlock symbol on such websites before communicating any sensitive information. Cashfloats website is a secure website where you can apply for an online loan UK.

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Encrypted apps

These are specifically designed software applications providing built-in security. Encrypted apps, unlike email encryption, is easy to implement and use. Simply download your chosen app onto your smartphone, tablet or PC, and it is ready to use. Included in this category are applications (shortened to “apps”) from many retailers, banks and other organisations. This includes government departments and health facilities, to enable secure and private communication.

Encrypted chat apps are made software applications specially designed for personal communications for use on Android smartphones, iPhone and Windows smartphones or tablets. Many of these apps provide secure voice, video text and picture messaging. Many encrypted apps are widely available from Android, iPhone and Windows phone online stores. To enable encrypted communications, it is necessary for you to ensure your friends are also using the same encrypted apps.

Here we take a look at some of the most popular and highly regarded encrypted communications applications, popularly known as chat apps.

WhatsApp

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WhatsApp is probably the most widely recognised and used encrypted app in the world and is used by millions of people. The WhatsApp app works on the following platforms: Android, iPhone, Mac or Windows PC and Windows Phone.
It uses your internet connection for voice and video calls, so avoiding mobile and SMS charges. All communications using WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted so nobody else can intercept or listen to, view or read your communications.
WhatsApp includes Group Chat, a facility to help keep a group of friends or family updated together. The app also provides security features to ensure you connect to your intended recipient, and to detect if your communication is intercepted. To sign up for WhatsApp you will need a valid mobile phone number.
Facebook own WhatsApp and is fully encrypted. Facebook’s Messenger service is not an encrypted service – so is not secure.

Signal

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Signal is a highly regarded encrypted app from Open Whisper Systems. The app is for use on both Apple iPhone and Android smartphones. It is available free to download from both the Apple store and from GooglePlay.
Signal is open source software, created by a team of developers working together, supported by donations and grants. There is no charge to users for using Signal and no advertisements. It allows any connected callers (both sender and receiver need to have Signal installed to use) free encrypted voice or video messages. As well as pictures and text messages with no MMS or SMS fees. This makes it free to use, as well as being secure. Group chats are also possible on Signal.
There are great consumer reviews for its simple easy to use interface. All communications using Signal are end-to-end encrypted so nobody else, including Open Whisper systems, can read your communications.
A further feature of signal is that Open Whisper systems do not store the meta data for your calls (including date and time, duration, contact number and message content). This means your communications are more confidential, but you will need to ensure you keep your own copies of important messages.

Skype

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Widely known Skype (owned and operated by Microsoft) allows users free video voice and text messaging via the internet. Best known for the PC application, Skype apps are available for Android, iPhone and many other platforms. Calls to mobile or landline phones are chargeable.

Frozen Chat

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Frozen Chat not only offers encrypted messaging, it also has the record (OTR) messaging – meaning there is no record kept of you even making a call or sending a message. The Frozen Chat App also uses open source software using XMPP open protocol. This means it can use thousands of servers worldwide making it virtually impossible to interrupt or take down by the authorities or criminal hackers. IRC chat facilities are also available.
The downside is that the encrypted chat app is currently only available for use on Android phones and tablets.


Other encrypted apps are available, with new apps sprouting up all the time. Simply search “encrypted chat app” to see what is available and what may best suit your particular needs.

In summary

Stay safe and confidential online, whether for voice, text or video calling. Seek out and install your choice of encrypted chat app now. By cooperating with friends and family using your chosen chat app you can also save lots of money by ensuring you use wifi for free communications. It can reduce your mobile and landline phone bills and save on hefty data bills via mobile networks.

At Cashfloat.co.uk, we offer high acceptance cheap loans through our very secure website. All information is encrypted for your protection. Our app is also one of the many encrypted apps available on the App store or Google Play store. Your safety is always our top priority.

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Natalie Stone is an accomplished writer. In her ‘spare time’ she paints in watercolour and acrylic. Her favourite scenes are of sunset over the sea, or of poisonous snakes in the rainforest. She wishes you success with your financial pursuits!

Written by: Natalie Stone
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