Sending text messages has been around since the dawn of mobile phones and has played a vital role in creating a new global language. This form of communication is being put out of the pasture by online messengers. Messengers operate using data and run using 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi. These platforms have grown to become a standard part of online services, including websites used to access games like cleopatra game. These types of spaces and applications succeed in making communication easier than it has ever been before. However, such platforms are also breeding grounds for miscreants that rear their ugly heads and threaten the safety of users and their information. Here are some of the significant insecurities that messengers have yet to iron out.
Spread of Misinformation
Prominent internet messengers such as WhatsApp support massive fan bases in the billions. Such high numbers make it easy for users to spread misinformation faster than they can be stopped. In India, for instance, WhatsApp has come under fire more than once with the government demanding stricter measures to curb fraud and fake news. The app was caught up in a couple of violent incidents in the country that occurred in 2017 and 2018. Many more similar occurrences have been reported around the world, even with smaller platforms. You can avoid falling victim to or spreading misinformation on messengers by:
- Verifying messages that you are about to send with reliable sources and can be linked to facts online.
- Checking to see if photos, videos, audio recordings, and other forms of shared media have been edited to fit a negative narrative.
- Understanding when a message has been forwarded a lot of times by looking for the double arrow icon, and double-check the information with trusted news sources.
- Watching out for messages that have grammatical errors, ask for personal and banking information, or provide clickable links with promises of new features.
No Transition or Cloud Encryption
Messages that are backed up on the cloud are not encrypted. Usually, encryption is reserved for end-to-end transmissions, but it does not extend to backup messages. For instance, Google Drive can access messages sent by WhatsApp users once they are stored in the cloud. Also, the government can demand these firms to turn over encrypted messages that are stored in their servers. In rare occasions, the applications put in little to no effort to encrypt data transmitted between senders and recipients, such as Mxit and QQ. Other popular messaging platforms that do better in this respect but still have issues include:
- Yahoo! Messenger
- BlackBerry Messenger
- Google Hangouts
- Facebook Messenger
If encryption is a concern for you, ensure you read through the privacy policies of such applications before registering with them.
Buggy Desktop Apps
Messaging apps that have somewhat or fully mastered the art of encryption come with the benefit of cross-platform accessibility. Applications like Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts can run on a multitude of gadgets and operating systems, including desktop computers. Over the past few years, accessing these platforms on PCs has opened the door for significant vulnerabilities such as faulty software. These buggy apps can proceed to make unauthorized changes or even acquire sensitive data. Stay on top of such issues by updating applications as often as possible. If you install updates that require you to reboot the respective apps or the device, do it as soon as it is suggested.
Messenger app users are often victims of malware threats that are accomplished using infected files or links that tamper with the application’s functioning. One of the most prominent malware affecting WhatsApp users is called Agent Smith. The app sneakily replaces the messenger with a malign version that has ads. The malware can hide its icon to avoid being spotted on the app launcher and gets away by posing as WhatsApp.
In worse case scenarios, malware can hack the user’s finances and send money back to the fraudsters. Most of these scams use a pay-per-click system that robs the user without their knowledge. The most effective way to avoid such mishaps is by downloading applications from official sites and stores.
Photo and Video Alterations
A security flaw that has been plaquing messaging apps is the ability of hackers to change images, audios, videos, and other files sent on them. This issue is rooted in how media is stored on WhatsApp and several other messengers that face similar problems. This snag is even more concerning due to the perceived immunity of modern internet messengers from privacy risks and manipulation of content.
No Perfect Forward Secrecy
Perfect forward secrecy refers to an encryption system being able to change the keys used to access data automatically. Therefore, if the most recent key is compromised, only a small portion of sensitive data is left exposed to praying hands. Some internet messengers lack this practice, which means that crypto-keys can be acquired and used to access communications as an unauthorized third party. Only use messaging platforms featuring this future-proofing feature that elevates the messaging service to a new level and respects client privacy.
Rare Independent Security Audits
Security audits allow the examination of records to tell whether they are reliable sources of accurate and complete information. Having independent auditors inspect online messengers provides users with professional judgements of what they can expect when using them. Impartial, uninfluenced, and unbiased views also help to point out issues that need to be fixed. Numerous messaging platforms do not perform independent audits, or they rarely do so.
Undocumented Security Designs
Internet messengers often require personal information from users, which makes it essential to know the security measures in place. Apps with questionable safety often do not provide information on the steps taken to secure clients’ information. Without these documents, users cannot evaluate the effect of how they use the application.
Internet messengers have become integrated into everyday life for most people, which makes it paramount to be aware of the threats that accompany their use. Stay safe by always getting apps from official sources, keeping them up to date, and scanning your gadget for security bugs.