Why We Should All Be Using The Signal Chat App
Encrypted communications are the need of the hour, especially if you’re sharing sensitive information with your contacts. Which is why Signal is such an important tool these days. Its end-to-end encryption applies not only to instant messaging but also to voice and video calls. What’s all the more awesome is the fact that it’s a free and open-source program that works not just on your iPhone or iPad, but also on your Mac devices. Not to mention versions for Android, Windows, and Linux are available as well.
A testament to Signal’s brilliant encryption capabilities is the fact that whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden claims to use it every day, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also swears by it. Signal provides total privacy to its users and is replete with tons of features that ensure both your conversations and your data are secure from snooping eyes all the time. For users of Apple devices, iMessage is a great tool for messaging and it offers end-to-end encryption as well, but it’s sadly, not cross-platform. So it makes a lot of sense for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to have Signal installed across all their devices. Once you’ve done that, these 10 tips will definitely come in handy.
Blur your pictures
During the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and over the world, the folks over at Signal introduced this new feature that lets you blur all the faces in your photos before sending them across. It was important for the protests since it not only protected people’s identities but also allowed them to send photos without leaving a trace as to who is in them.
The company’s founder, Moxie Marlinspike had written in a blog post, “We’ve also been working to figure out additional ways we can support everyone in the street right now. One immediate thing seems clear: 2020 is a pretty good year to cover your face.”
Now, there are several apps out there that let you blur faces in your photographs but most of them perform their operations on the cloud. This compromises their security in a big way, as the process may lead to the image staying on the cloud after it has been edited.
Singal’s face blurring happens entirely on your own iPhone, iPad or other iDevices. Just pressing the Blur Faces button while sharing any image from the app identifies all the faces in it and automatically blurs them for you.
Your own messages can be used against you if you’re not careful enough. So while Signal will ensure that no intermediary is snooping in on your conversations, you can’t expect the person receiving them to be of the highest morals, can you?
That’s where the feature of Disappearing Messages comes in. The Signal app allows you to have all your messages sent to particular chats get deleted automatically after they have been read.
To activate this feature, you need to tap on the contact name from within the app and tap on the toggle Disappearing Messages on the button. A slider will then appear, letting you choose the exact duration for which you wish the message to be visible to the receiver.
The time options can be 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 6 hours, 12 hours, 1 day or 1 week. This configuration applies to all parties of a conversation, and the clock starts ticking for each recipient once they’ve read their copy of the message.
Hide notification content
All the privacy of an instant messaging app is of no use if someone near you reads the messages you receive while you’re just glancing at your notifications. Such situations usually arise when you’re unaware since it’s a natural habit to glance at your notifications after you pick up your iPhone.
While your Apple device already has the ability to hide notifications from the lock screen, Signal also gives you that option to do that from its own end. So there are two ways you can actually take care of this privacy issue.
The first way is through your iDevice’s Settings menu. You can tap on Notifications and scroll down till you find the Signal app. Here, in the Show Previews section, you need to select Never. You can also select When Unlocked for the notification content to only be visible if your device is unlocked.
Signal gives you more granular control on notification content though. When you’re within the app, you can tap your profile, then Notifications, then Show and this is where you can select whether you want the app to display the name, content, and actions for an incoming text, or just the name, or nothing at all. You can also mute notifications for a specific conversation for a set amount of time.
Protect Signal with passcode
Your iPhone might have Touch ID or Face ID protection, but what if it falls into the wrong hands when it’s unlocked. During that period, someone can pretend to be you and use Signal to send untoward messages to your contacts.
That is why Signal comes with a Screen Lock feature that locks the app using your phone’s pin, passphrase, or biometric authentication. Whichever if these you might have activated on the device, you’ll need to use again to get into Signal.
Do note that this won’t work if you don’t have any password protection or biometric authentication enabled on your phone. Signal merely harnesses your device’s authentication means to protect itself.
To enable this on the Signal app, you need to enter the app’s settings and look for the Screen Lock option. If the slider beside it is grey that means it’s disabled and you just need to tap on it once to enable it. You can also set the Screen Lock Timeout, moreover.
The information you share can very well be used against you in the most dubious possible ways. Your chats could be taken out of context based on screenshots captured by the people you chat with.
Which is why, just like Snapchat, Signal also ships with the provision to let you block the capturing of screenshots by other users. Enabling this feature is very simple, but if you’re new to it, here’s how you can do it.
Head into the Privacy section of the app’s settings and look for the Screen Security option. You can toggle the slider next to it to enable or disable the capturing of screenshots.
From here on, whenever someone tries to capture screenshots of your chats, a blue privacy screen with the Signal logo will appear to cover your text. On Android devices, this also disallows you from capturing screenshots of Signal on your own device.
One-time viewable images and videos
Sending and receiving images and videos are what instant messaging apps are used for the most. However, you don’t always want them to stay on the receiver’s device forever.
That’s where a feature introduced by Signal early this year comes in handy. When you’re sharing a photograph or a video to any of your contacts, you can set it to be viewable just once and then vanish from their device completely.
When you send a “view-once” media message, the image or video won’t be permanently stored in the sender or recipient’s conversation history. It will instead contain an empty “Viewed” media indicator to help maintain context without maintaining the file.
When you’re composing the media you’ll see a tiny button at the bottom with an infinity logo. Tapping it will change it to a logo that says 1x and that’s when the message becomes one-time viewable before you send it across.
Easy switching to new device
If you’re one who switches their devices a lot, this nifty feature will really end up pleasing you, as it lets you get a complete backup from your device. You will need to make sure that both your Apple devices have iOS 12.4 or later installed and also make sure that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are activated on them both.
You first start with installing Signal on your new device and completing registration. On the next screen, select the Transfer from iOS Device option and tap Next to see a QR code that’s displayed on the screen. This is when it’s time to pick up the old device.
On the old device, click the Next button and move its camera viewfinder over to the QR code that’s being displayed on the new device. This will start the transfer and all you need to do next is send a message from your new device and all your data from the old one will be completely deleted.
Signal doesn’t rely on services like iCloud and Google Drive for backup, as it stores everything on the device itself. This makes sure that there’s an added layer of security to your chats.
Signal’s robust security measures allow you to verify if any contact you’re having a conversation with is that exact person. Each person who has a Signal account has a unique identity key. Verifying it will deny the possibility of anyone hijacking the conversation.
Anyone sharing sensitive information over the app should definitely verify if the person at the other end is the one they think they are. Once you’ve done that you won’t have to re-verify them until they switch to a new phone.
To verify a contact on Signal, you must first tap on a conversation to open it. Following that, you will need to long-press on the contact’s name until the identify key appears on the screen.
You can now verify the contact either by scanning QR codes or by comparing what the app calls “fingerprints.” These are literally 66-character blocks of text. But this only applies if the person is there with you in person. In cases wherein they are not, you will need to send the QR code or the “fingerprint” to them using a third-party service.
Relay your calls
This is an extremely important feature for those who want to be completely sure about the security of their calls. And it applies to both video and voice calls. Its need arises because the person you’re calling may be able to see what your IP address is.
This could in turn be used to track your location. The handy relaying feature on the Signal app allows you to route your calls through the app’s server so that the person on the other end of the call can only see the Signal server’s IP address.
Do note that this will affect the quality of the app since it does involve quite a bit of tunneling. However, if it’s safety and security that you’re looking for, this feature is something that should definitely solve your woes.
On any iDevice, you can head into the Signal app’s settings menu and navigate to the Privacy section. There you’ll find a toggle for ‘Always Relay Calls’ that’s off by default. Turn it on and you will now be able to securely converse with your contacts on voice or video calls.
Send secret notes to yourself
Using the Notes app on your Apple device is the obvious choice if you wish to remember something. But there are some folks who use dead phone numbers or contacts of their exes who have blocked them as note-keepers by sending messages to those contacts.
There’s a better way to do that with Signal. It’s using a non-person contact called Note to Self that’s built into the app. You can text anything you want to remember to this contact and it’ll stay there as a one-sided conversation.
Everything from photos, videos, and texts to voice notes can be shared with Note to Self. And whenever you wish to go back to them, all you need to do is search the Note to Self contact from the list and open it.
You can also send disappearing messages on Note to Self. The timer starts immediately after you send the message. Since every message on Signal is encrypted, it’s a better option than using the iCloud-based Notes app on your Apple device.