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Apple comes top in secure messaging tests

gadgets Updated: Nov 06, 2014 16:14 IST

When it comes to encryption and privacy, iMessage and FaceTime are the best mass-market smartphone messaging systems, beating everything from Google Chat to WhatsApp for protecting users' data.

However, before devoted iPhone and iPad users take to Twitter to start gloating, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which carried out the meticulous tests, highlights that none of the world's most popular messaging systems met all of its security criteria.

In fact, of the 39 apps and tools tested, only six, all of which were devoted to secure communication, passed each of the EFF's seven tests with flying colors. They were CryptoCat, ChatSecure, Signal/RedPhone, Silent Phone, Silent Text and TextSecure.

The motivation behind carrying out the tests was to help consumers understand the potential security and privacy risks inherent in their choice of text, voice or video messaging client but also to highlight the fact that although there are very secure systems out there, they are often too complicated and difficult for consumers to use with ease.

"It boils down to two things: security and usability. Most of the tools that are easy for the general public to use don't rely on security best practices -- including end-to-end encryption and open source code. Messaging tools that are really secure often aren't easy to use; everyday users may have trouble installing the technology, verifying its authenticity, setting up an account, or may accidentally use it in ways that expose their communications," said the EFF.

Of the apps tested, the EFF specifically highlighted weaknesses in AIM; BlackBerry Messenger; Facebook Messenger ad WhatsApp; Google Chat and Hangouts Skype; Secret; SnapChat and Yahoo Messenger. None of them provide end-to-end encryption of messages sent meaning that they are no more secure than basic email.

By creating a score card and messaging league table, the EFF hopes to stimulate competition and innovation among the different messaging platforms to improve their rankings but also to encourage specialists to focus on refining their apps for ease of use.