Privacy guide: everything you need to know about encryption

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Privacy guide: everything you need to know about encryption
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Protecting files and folders is a good start, but what about your communications? Here’s how to encrypt private messages in WhatsApp, Facebook and Gmail, as well as your email backups.

Chat securely in WhatsApp

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption to keep your messages private. WhatsApp’s protection means that, provided you and the person you’re chatting with are using the latest version of the app, all communications are secure and not even WhatsApp itself can see them.

Encryption is turned on in the app by default – there’s no need to enable it manually. However, if you want to check that your messages are secure, tap the three-dot menu in the top-right corner, select ‘View contact’ and under Encryption, you should see a notice stating that all chat and calls are secure. To verify this, click the note and scan the displayed QR code on your contact’s phone, or vice versa.

Secret Facebook conversations

Secret Conversations is a useful hidden feature in Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS that lets you send end-to-end encrypted messages to your friends. The option isn’t enabled by default and you have to start a new private conversation – rather than just continue an existing thread – to use it. Also, it doesn’t work in group chats.

Facebook's Secret Conversations feature lets you encrypt your chats.

To start a secret conversation, tap your profile photo and scroll down to Secret Conversations. Open this option and make sure the feature is turned on (enable it, if it isn’t). Next, tap the New Message button and select the Secret link in the top-right corner. Choose a friend from your contacts and start writing a message. The recipient has to agree to enter a Secret Conversation with you.

Text and call securely using Signal

A growing number of chat apps – including the aforementioned WhatsApp and Facebook – use end-to-end encryption to keep your conversations private, but Signal is more secure than most. This free app, which is used and recommended by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, doesn’t store information about its users and lets you chat securely to contacts in your existing phone and address book.

Available for both iOS and Android, the app lets you send hack-proof text, and picture and video messages to individuals or groups, and also make secure phone calls. Most recently, the developer added support for end-to-end encrypted video calls.

Secure your Gmail messages

Although Gmail offers encryption over an HTTPS connection when you’re reading and writing messages, it doesn’t encrypt them while they’re in transit. You can significantly increase your privacy by installing the CryptUp extension for Chrome and Firefox, which secures messages and attachments sent through Gmail in your browser using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) end-to-end encryption.

It works by adding a Secure Compose button to Gmail so you can quickly send secure messages whenever you need to. If your recipient doesn’t have CryptUp installed, or any other email encryption for that matter, you can secure your messages or files with a password.

Add end-to-end encryption to Gmail messages by installing CryptUp.

CryptUp’s developer is planning to release Android and iOS apps, along with an Outlook add-in, later this year.

Encrypt your email backups

MailStore Home backs up all your emails, and works with any mail provider including Gmail and Just select the service(s) to back up and it will get to work. You can password-protect the archives, and the software fully encrypts all databases to make it impossible for anyone other than yourself to view the messages.

Next: keep your browsing and social accounts private.

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