Everything you Need to Know About Signal Messenger

A couple of months back Signal was only being used by a handful of people across the globe. But then all of a sudden, there was a mass exodus of users jumping ships from WhatsApp over to this platform. So what was the reason behind this unforeseen jump in the user base of Signal? Well, the most popular WhatsApp instant messaging service in the world has recently revised its privacy policy.

As a result, consumers had to accept that much of the personal knowledge was open to the parent organization. Although your conversations were already encrypted end-to-end, other material was also within control of Facebook and the firms it owns, such as your status messages, party stats, profile pictures (Instagram, etc). Then take into account the WhatsApp Company accounts, and the data will be beyond the access of third parties in no time at all.

As it is a well-known fact that Facebook and Data Protection typically do not go hand in hand, many users have taken the last step of bidding farewell to WhatsApp and have begun to search for alternatives. And Signal soon became the go-to alternative for them.

But what was the reason behind this tectonic change in users to this app instead of a myriad of other alternatives available? More importantly, how good is it to protect the privacy of users? Ok, let’s get it checked out.

Everything you need to know about Signal

In basic terms, Signal is an instant messaging app based on privacy. In the one side, from an app belonging to this domain, you’d get all the prerequisites you might have asked for. This provide the option to send pictures, videos, and other files for text and voice messages. You may also make audio and video calls with the app, as well.

But much of this is still found in other games, so what is the distinguishing factor? Oh, by having a really healthy atmosphere, it continues to outdo its rival. First and foremost, it is an open-source software that is available on GitHub with all the source code. Since it doesn’t operate behind closed doors, it answers quite a lot of privacy questions immediately.

In addition, all the messages are encrypted end-to-end. But only you will be able to access these chats and the intended receiver. It would not be feasible for even the signal servers to decode them. This is also one of the many measures of privacy that it has implemented. Let us make some of the other notable ones available to you:

Signal’s Approach Towards User Privacy

  • Not only your chats, but also your profile name and profile data are also encrypted, to begin with.
  • Speaking of encryption, the metadata is also encrypted. What about backup for chat? Ok, Signal stores the entire chat backup on your computer locally. Because no third-party cloud provider like Google Drive is involved, there is one less privacy problem to think about.
  • Via the system lock pattern or the fingerprint scanner, you may also enforce a lock screen on this platform. Then there is also an option to block users from taking the chat screenshots.
  • Talking about anonymity, you will often get a prompt to check your identity.
  • Turning our focus to calls, the Relay Call feature was introduced by Signal. Using their servers, this function relays your call and masks your IP address.

Ok, this should have given you a good idea about the privacy measures of the app. Let’s answer another significant question now: how the data is handled.

What information is retrieved by the signal?

The big USP of Signal exists in the way it interacts with user info. It just has your phone number registered with them, to begin with. In addition, all the other elements, including the chats, profile name, and photos as well as copies, are encrypted by default end-to-end, meaning they cannot be decrypted or viewed.

However, there is only one thing that needs your attention:

Queues end-to-end encrypted messages on its servers [Source: Signal Legal]

For a temporary time, these messages stay on their servers and are encrypted in nature. When you give someone a message but they are offline at that point in time, the explanation for this brief duration of data keeping is required.

The communications will be permanently removed from Signal’s registry and sent to the intended receiver as soon as they come back online. With this, we have painted a near perfect image of the signal and its process for handling data. Now let’s take a look at some of the in-app collection of functions.

Features of Signal Messenger

While the app might not be numbered among the instant messaging applications that are most widely personalized, it offers users a degree of flexibility. Here are some of this app’s striking and substantial features that merit your attention:

Custom Chat Settings

For individual contacts, there are quite a few ways of setting up personalized warnings. This would help you quickly recognise the person who has called you or sent you a message without ever taking a look at your monitor.

Disappearing Messages

The capacity to deliver self-destructing messages is another pretty nifty aspect of Signal. As the name indicates, after the allotted time, these messages are immediately deleted. And this time, what is it? Well, it depends on your selected time, ranging from 5 seconds to a week.

App Privacy Features

App Privacy Features Screenshots can be disabled, too. In the earlier section, most of its privacy-centric characteristics have already been covered, here we would look at some of the other underrated ones

Desktop Version

Signal also builds a laptop, and it is a piece of a cakewalk to set it up. In comparison, when using the web software, you don’t need to be online from your laptop as opposed to other messaging systems. Scanning the QR Code from Settings > Linked Device and then linking your smartphone to the PC version of the app is all you need.

Features that Missed the Cut

Although Signal actually has some pretty nifty characteristics in its arsenal, there are still quite a few useful ones that are not yet available. If you come from WhatsApp or Telegram, then the need for them can exponentially increase. Some of the missing signal features that include a call include the inability to share the live location, the online status of the customer, the absence of the About Me segment, the inability to share status alerts, and no web edition (you have to use its standalone app).

The lack of a user ID scheme in operation, however, is most worrying. For the dumb, it means that once you have exchanged your personal mobile phone, you can only communicate with anyone on Signal. It seems contradictory to have an app that has its origins firmly kept in the privacy realm that allows you to share your contact information. Fortunately, as per their response to this question on Reddit, this will not last long as the Signal Team is already working on it.

But there appears to be no room for any caveats for such a long list of amazing features (and a few misses)? Yeah, there are others, and we’re not going to do complete justice to this article until and until I make you aware of both sides of the coin. With that said, let’s look at some of its weaknesses.

The Cons

There needs to be a few rough edges, no matter how polished an offering is. And for this app as well, that seems to be the case. The first could be temporary (fingers crossed) in nature, but because it bothers quite a few people, we thought about adding it here. The servers of the latter are not able to manage all this traffic very effectively because of a huge and unexpected flood of users from WhatsApp to Signal.

Any users have complained that they are unable to send messages, but that this error message is very welcome. Well, Signal is aware of this problem already and “is busy adding new servers and additional capacity.” So, this might be a temporary radar blip.

The next question is how it deals with backup chats (if you want to name one). It does not store any backups on its server or any other cloud storage, as we have already described. Whatever knowledge is generated is only saved on your computer. So if your computer was compromised or had to undergo a factory reset, you will have missed all your communications to date.

A 30-digit passkey will be released to you the first time you make a backup. The next time you are about to restore your signal data and chat, this passkey will be required. Then there is no way to get back your data if you end up forgetting this key. They should, in my mind, have taken a middle ground instead and allowed the user to set up their password.

Conclusion

While it primarily takes a privacy-centric approach, it has also given equal weight to all the requisite functionality that a user may have demanded from an app belonging to this domain at the same time. It speaks volumes of itself, considering the fact that the app’s only caveat emerges because it is overprotective and profoundly interested with dealing with the privacy of the user.

There is a common saying that “online privacy is a myth.” Rounding off. Oh, actually, there appears to be a player who is about to set this myth to rest. With that said, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you ready to move between WhatsApp and Signal? Or are you now securely linked to the offering from Facebook and are not looking for a move anytime soon? In the comments section below, drop-in your useful suggestions and keep us informed!

Originally published at https://www.xclusivebyte.com.

A tech blog focus to bring you a hype about technology