Signal and Whatsapp Are Only as Private as the People You Talk To

David Murphy 06/14/2018. 8 comments
Privacy WhatsApp Signal Anonymous Screenshot

In the show I’m in right now, there’s an scene when the less-than-pleasant Archdeacon of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Claude Frollo, tells his adopted son, Quasimodo, that “it takes two people to communicate.” But it’s not just the hunchback that forgets this lesson—I’m surprised, but not that surprised, about how easy it is to ignore this fact in everyday life.

Consider the indictment that was just handed down by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against James Wolfe, a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The indictment alleges that Wolfe lied to federal investigators about his communications with three different reporters—sometimes done over “anonymous” messaging applications like Signal and WhatsApp.

Between in or around September 2017 and continuing until at least in or around December 2017, REPORTER #3 and WOLFE regularly communicated with each other using the anonymizing messaging application Signal, text messages, and telephone calls.

“But wait,” you ask. “Aren’t these supposed to be secure messaging applications?”

Yes. Absolutely. Neither Signal nor WhatsApp can read the messages you send across their respective services, thanks to the encryption mechanisms built into the entire process. If either service is subpoenaed, they can’t help investigators recover messages at all (presumably), a much better situation for you and your clandestine practices than if you just straight-up text messaged your spy network over a wireless carrier’s network. (Don’t do that.)

Here’s the problem, though: If you’re dumb and you leave your messages on your device instead of deleting them, investigators can find them if they obtain physical access to your tablet or smartphone. The people you were talking to? Same deal.

And don’t forget: The party you’re “securely messaging” can also take screenshots of your conversations. If the app you’re using doesn’t warn you when this happens, a la Snapchat, or have some built-in mechanism to prevent screenshots, you’re stuck. Even if it does, a craftier person can just take out a secondary device and take a photo of the screen with your identifying information in it.

What’s a wannabe-spy to do? On Signal, consider using the service’s disappearing messages feature. Though even Signal itself notes that this won’t stop someone from taking a picture of what you sent, surely you can use other tools at your disposal—like burner phone numbers—to cleverly conceal who you are.

(Or just make a dummy email account, connect to a trustworthy VPN, fire up Tor, and send your secret, encrypted message that way—which is just an “off the top of my head” privacy suggestion. There are plenty of more advanced techniques, like dropping secret information into a SecureDrop, for example.)

On WhatsApp, “disappearing messages” are a more manual technique. You have to delete your messages yourself, which removes them from both your device and your recipient’s device. Don’t dawdle, though; you only have about an hour or so to eliminate what you’ve sent.

As before, remember that information about you can still be subpoenaed, including what numbers your number has contacted, so you might want to get creative about how you sign up for WhatsApp in the first place if you’re looking to stay as anonymous as possible. And, yes, that’s “anonymous as possible,” since it never feels like you’re truly anonymous when you’re using someone else’s service. - Download Hi-Res Songs

1 BlackPink

Kiss And Make Up flac

BlackPink. 2018. Writer: Soke;Kny Factory;Billboard;Chelcee Grimes;Teddy Park;Marc Vincent;Dua Lipa.
2 Martin Garrix

Waiting For Tomorrow flac

Martin Garrix. 2018. Writer: Pierce Fulton;Mike Shinoda;Martijn Garritsen;Brad Delson.
3 John Legend

Written In The Stars flac

John Legend. 2018. Writer: Kiana Brown;Santoy;Kevin White;Mike Woods;MZMC;The Heavy Group;Rice N' Peas.
4 Alan Walker

Diamond Heart flac

Alan Walker. 2018. Writer: Alan Walker;Sophia Somajo;Mood Melodies;James Njie;Thomas Troelsen;Kristoffer Haugan;Edvard Normann;Anders Froen;Gunnar Greve;Yann Bargain;Victor Verpillat;Fredrik Borch Olsen.
5 Martin Garrix

Access flac

Martin Garrix. 2018. Writer: Martin Garrix.
6 Cardi B

Taki Taki flac

Cardi B. 2018. Writer: Bava;Juan Vasquez;Vicente Saavedra;Jordan Thorpe;DJ Snake;Ozuna;Cardi B;Selena Gomez.
7 Martin Garrix

Yottabyte flac

Martin Garrix. 2018. Writer: Martin Garrix.
8 Bradley Cooper

Shallow flac

Bradley Cooper. 2018. Writer: Andrew Wyatt;Anthony Rossomando;Mark Ronson;Lady Gaga.
9 Lady Gaga

I'll Never Love Again flac

Lady Gaga. 2018. Writer: Benjamin Rice;Lady Gaga.
10 Post Malone

Sunflower flac

Post Malone. 2018. Writer: Louis Bell;Billy Walsh;Carter Lang;Swae Lee;Post Malone.
11 Deep Chills

Run Free flac

Deep Chills. 2018.
12 Sia

I'm Still Here flac

Sia. 2018. Writer: Sia.
13 Mako

Rise flac

Mako. 2018. Writer: Riot Music Team;Mako;Justin Tranter.
14 Avril Lavigne

Head Above Water flac

Avril Lavigne. 2018. Writer: Stephan Moccio;Travis Clark;Avril Lavigne.
15 Dyro

Latency flac

Dyro. 2018. Writer: Martin Garrix;Dyro.
16 Cher Lloyd

None Of My Business flac

Cher Lloyd. 2018. Writer: ​iamBADDLUCK;Alexsej Vlasenko;Kate Morgan;Henrik Meinke;Jonas Kalisch;Jeremy Chacon.
17 Bradley Cooper

Always Remember Us This Way flac

Bradley Cooper. 2018. Writer: Lady Gaga;Dave Cobb.
18 Blinders

Breach (Walk Alone) flac

Blinders. 2018. Writer: Dewain Whitmore;Ilsey Juber;Blinders;Martin Garrix.
19 Julia Michaels

There's No Way flac

Julia Michaels. 2018. Writer: Ian Kirkpatrick;Justin Tranter;Julia Michaels;Lauv.
20 Halsey

Without Me flac

Halsey. 2018. Writer: Halsey;Delacey;Louis Bell;Amy Allen;Justin Timberlake;Timbaland;Scott Storch.



Suggested posts

Other David Murphy's posts