- We spend countless minutes on video calls every day.
- But, how safe is the video calling app we use?
- Can it be hacked or be recorded by third parties?
The Truth About Video Calling Apps!
1. WhatsApp Messenger
- Being owned by Facebook would seem to be like a bad start for any app with a focus on security and privacy.
- But, WhatsApp is a secure messaging app. Every message and voice/video call on WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted.
- End-to-end encryption ensures that only you and the person you’re communicating with can see what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.
- WhatsApp uses the Open Whisper Systems Signal Protocol to encrypt messages and calls, which is the best in the world today.
- Also, Facebook has promised not to use WhatsApp account information to improve its products or provide relevant Facebook Ads as of now.
2. Facebook Messenger
- In the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, concerns about Facebook’s data collection overreach have only intensified.
- But, Facebook added the ‘Secret Conversations’ feature to secure messages/voice & video calls on its Messenger app.
- The end-to-end encryption is the same as the one used by WhatsApp provided by Open Whisper Systems Signal Protocol.
- However, the encryption is not enabled by default and has to be manually activated for every single conversation by choosing ‘Secret Conversation’ in the chat window when messaging a contact.
- One can also send self-destructing messages that disappear after a certain time has elapsed.
- The video chat experience works relatively well. You can use live effects to have some fun with your family and friends.
Verdict: Relatively Safe
3. Google Duo
- Google has been criticized for disclosing information to governments and agencies.
- But, the safety measures taken by Google to protect its users from cyber-criminals and hackers is definitely laudable.
- Google specifically built this app to make video calls, and trust me the app is damn good at it!
- All video calls are end-to-end encrypted by default. No one, including Google, can trace your calls and what you are conversing!
- Privacy has been at the forefront of the Google Duo video chatting app.
- It is also optimized to work with bad networks. It gracefully reduces the video resolution to keep the call going smoothly.
- The human rights organization Amnesty International said that Snapchat is one of those social media platforms that takes the least action on user privacy.
- It has millions of active users and is extremely popular with younger people. One can share photos, videos, text messages and more.
- With the recent update, you can also do video calls to your fellow Snapchatters.
- Even though the app has introduced end-to-end encryption, there seem to be certain limitations.
- As widely reported, Snapchat has used the same symmetric key to encrypt data. Worse yet, that symmetric key is embedded within the app, making it easily accessible for the hackers.
Verdict: Not Safe
5. Viber Messenger
- Viber clearly states that its mission is to protect your privacy so that you never have to think twice about what you can or can’t share when you’re using Viber.
- Viber’s policy guarantees that they can’t sell your private information since they chose to have no access to your private chats and calls in the first place.
- Not only are your communications protected by end-to-end encryption by default, nothing you share is ever stored on Viber’s servers once delivered.
- Viber’s end-to-end encryption is based on the ‘double ratchet’ protocol found in Open Whisper Systems Signal application, with their proprietary implementation and additions.
- The call quality is excellent and even sounded better than other messenger apps in the same league.
- After Microsoft acquired Skype, privacy-conscious video chatters slowly began avoiding it over concerns that Skype may allow third-party and government wiretap surveillance.
- It has been widely reported in the media that surveillance is deliberately built into Skype so that law enforcement agencies could easily eavesdrop on anyone they suspect.
- Even though Skype has had some kind of encryption previously, it recently introduced end-to-end encryption for voice calls and texts through a feature called ‘Private Conversations’.
- Skype uses the powerful Signal Protocol to implement end-to-end encryption. Private Conversation is an opt-in feature and is not enabled by default.
- Even though the company provides a transparency report, its general stance on customers’ privacy is poor.
Verdict: Not Safe
- Although the app gets credit for its clean design and free HD-quality video chatting, it doesn’t offer a broader ecosystem of utilities that differentiate it from its peers.
- IMO claims that its voice/video calls and text messages are encrypted with SSL/TLS technology.
- If the data isn’t protected by a decent encryption service, there’s a risk it’ll be intercepted by someone with unfriendly intentions.
- Also, IMO continues to clog its app with ads and requests for upgradation to its premium subscription. It seems IMO’s stance towards user privacy is pretty poor.
Verdict: Not Safe
- Instagram again is a Facebook service, and we all know about Facebook’s privacy standards.
- It doesn’t look like Instagram is trying to compete with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger as a video calling app.
- Instead, this is about adding a convenience feature that’s in keeping with the current trends. For Instagram video calls, its USP is a simple one – you can talk and scroll feed at the same time.
- Even though there is transport-level encryption for chats and voice/video calls, end-to-end encryption is yet to come to Instagram.
- Facebook is trying to integrate all its services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram in the days to come. So, end-to-end encryption will be the norm.
Verdict: Not Safe
- Telegram has fought governments and law enforcement agencies to protect users privacy in the past.
- It provides end-to-end encryption via a feature called ‘Secret Chats’. However, users will have to enable it manually.
- Telegram uses a proprietary MTProto protocol to achieve end-to-end encryption. But, experts have expressed skepticism about the lack of transparency surrounding the protocol.
- If you have not enabled ‘Secret Chats’, the encryption provided is just at the transport-level and the encryption keys are stored right on its servers, which is not a good thing!
Verdict: Relatively Safe
- Apple has significantly ramped up privacy and security in its devices and services of late.
- When American investigative agency FBI demanded that Apple undermine its own encryption as part of a terrorist shooting investigation, it boldly said ‘No’.
- Recently, Britain government came up with a ‘Ghost Proposal’ where it wants messaging companies to secretly add law enforcement agencies as invisible participants in chats.
- Apple collectively with other major tech companies outrightly rejected Britain’s proposal saying it violates fundamental human rights and creates new security risks for users.
- FaceTime calls are fully protected by end-to-end encryption so that only the sender and receiver can access them. Even Apple cannot decrypt this data.
- One can always trust Apple when it comes to user privacy and security. They are trendsetters and are always at the forefront of user rights.
Shady Apps – Root Cause Of Most Hacks!
80 percent of the time, it’s the shady apps/malware that result in the hacks. Users unknowingly download such apps that easily gain access to camera and mic. The app/malware gives away all the personal information to a hacker who then leaks it.
15 percent of the time, personal videos are directly recorded by the person you’re communicating with using a screen recorder app and leaked.
3 percent of the time, it is the security flaws present in the video calling app that are exploited by hackers to steal data. Only 2 percent chances of the reason being something miscellaneous.
Video Chatting Safety Tips
- Always download apps from the official App Store. Check for ratings and user reviews. Beware of shady apps from unauthorized websites.
- Make sure the opposite person is 100% trustworthy before you share anything private with them.
- Only chat with people you really know. Do not accept chat requests/calls from non-friends.
- A good rule of thumb when it comes to video calls is to avoid indulging in things that you wouldn’t want your mother to see.
- Hackers can be on prowl on public Wi-Fi networks. Take precaution while using them.
- Use strong, different passwords for different apps or services.
- Do not give your phone to people other than the trusted ones. Someone with physical access to your phone can easily install hacking apps and wreak unimaginable havoc.
- Update the apps regularly. Updates often include bug fixes and security patches that will fix issues and vulnerabilities.
- Do not root or jailbreak your device in the greed of some additional features. Unknowingly, you are only breaching the system to make it susceptible to greater risks.
- Set up Two-factor Authentication. It makes it harder for hackers to gain access to a person’s devices or online accounts as knowing the victim’s password alone is not enough and will need an extra PIN number.