The 9 Best Encrypted Messaging Apps for Total Privacy in 2022

Phone with open message app on the screen, next to the safe full of message icons
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Summary: The 9 Best Encrypted Messaging Apps for Total Privacy in 2022

We use messaging apps to send messages, images, and files, which can potentially reveal a lot of personal information about us. Consequently, encrypted messaging apps are essential to maintaining security and privacy online.

However, the sheer number of messaging apps offering end-to-end encryption makes it difficult for most users to determine which ones are best suited for their needs. To resolve this problem, we’ve curated a list of the best encrypted messaging apps on the market today. These are:

  1. Signal – the best encrypted messaging app overall
  2. Messages – the best encrypted messaging app for the Apple ecosystem
  3. WhatsApp – the best encrypted messaging app for everyday use
  4. Threema – the most secure paid messaging app
  5. Telegram – the most feature-rich encrypted messaging app
  6. WickrMe – the best enterprise messaging app with strong encryption
  7. Viber – the best encrypted messaging app for communities
  8. Wire – the best encrypted messaging app for small businesses
  9. Dust – the best encrypted messaging app with added privacy features

While an encrypted messaging app is a great first step towards online security and privacy, it is not enough by itself. Using a VPN is highly recommended, since it encrypts all your data and internet activity, securing it from third parties.

NordVPN is our highest-rated VPN due to its stellar speeds, vast server network, and excellent security features.

Check out the rest of the article for a detailed breakdown of each of these apps!

Today’s messaging apps do a lot more than facilitate text-based communications. They allow for file uploads, voice recordings, video calls, chats, and even let you share stories. Many of the world’s best messaging apps generate revenue through advertising.

They collect and use personal data in order to retarget and push relevant adsThe thought of your private communications, videos, and images being scoured and used to identify your interests is unsettling. But, that’s the way it is.

Your data isn’t safe if you’re using a conventional messaging app that doesn’t use end-to-end encryption. In case of a hack, any third party can easily access all of it.

Indeed, you’d be surprised to know that many leading messaging apps don’t use strong encryption to protect your data. However, things are changing. There are now a number of apps that take encryption and user privacy seriously.

If you take your privacy seriously, using an encrypted messaging app should be an absolute priority. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best encrypted messaging apps, including key features and usability.


The 9 Best Encrypted Messaging Apps in 2022 – A Detailed Comparison

Before we get started, here’s a brief overview of how the best encrypted messaging apps stack up against each other.

Messaging AppSupported OSPriceDefault E2EEOpen Source
SignaliOS, Android, Windows, macOS, LinuxFreeYesYes
MessagesiOS, iPadOS, macOSFreeYes (not for text messages)No
WhatsAppiOS, Android, Windows, macOSFreeYesYes
ThreemaiOS, Android$3.99YesYes
TelegramiOS, Android, Windows, macOS, LinuxFreeNoNo
WickrMeiOS, Android, Windows, macOS, LinuxFreeYesYes
ViberiOS, Android, Windows, macOSFreeYesNo
WireiOS, Android, Windows, macOS, LinuxFreeYesYes
DustiOS, AndroidFreeYesYes

Now, we’ll look at each encrypted messaging app in detail and breaks down its pros and cons.

1. Signal — The best encrypted messaging app overall

Screenshot of Signal App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
Open-source softwarePhone number needed to set up an account
Industry-leading Signal Protocol encryptionNot very widely used
Run by a non-profit organization
Regular security audits

Signal has become synonymous with secure and encrypted communication. Its encryption protocol is strong and reliable and is even used by other messaging apps, like WhatsApp. However, unlike WhatsApp, Signal is run by a non-profit which is unlikely to monetize your data.

Moreover, it bosts other key security features such as disappearing messages and password-protected conversations. Signal is also open-source, so anyone can review its source code to see how it leverages user data.

Signal’s encryption relies on the concept of “perfect-forward secrecy.” It uses a ratchet system, which simply changes the encryption key after each message. More importantly, it uses a combination of Curve25519, HMAC-SHA256, and AES-256 encryption protocols as its low-level cryptographic algorithms. In layman’s terms, it’s virtually impossible to crack.

Not only does Signal offer top-notch security, but it also comes packed with useful communication features. The app can be used to send messages, images, documents, and files. You can also create groups of up to 1000 people and host video calls with 40 people!

There are a couple of downsides to Signal, though. For instance, it doesn’t allow for anonymous sign-ups and requires a user’s phone number when creating an account.

Moreover, Signal doesn’t have a large user base, despite a major uptick in the past couple of years. As a result, some of your contacts may not use the app. Though, to be fair, there’s only so much you can ask of a free app that doesn’t monetize your data.


2. Messages — The best encrypted messaging app for the Apple ecosystem

Apple Messages website with logo

ProsCons
Feature-rich messaging appText messages received on the app are not encrypted
Built into all Apple devicesVulnerable to exploits like Pegasus
Integration with other appsNot open-source
Cloud vulnerability still hasn’t been addressed

If you have an Apple device, you probably already know about Messages, the integrated messaging app built into all Apple products. It’s a convenient option to send encrypted messages, images, videos, and voice notes between Apple users. It can even be used on your Mac or iPad!

However, the end-to-end encryption on Messages is limited only to Apple devices, and you must enable it from the Messages app settings. The service, iMessage, uses the company’s Apple Push Notification service to send encrypted messages between users.

This is a binary protocol developed by Apple that established a Keep-Alive connection with Apple’s servers. The connection is TLS encrypted.

Recent versions of iMessage also support disappearing messages. Moreover, users can also limit the number of times recipients can view a message. In iOS 15, links received on iMessage automatically appear in Safari and other Apple apps, making it easy to keep track of information that contacts have shared with you.

While this service is exclusive for Apple devices, it’s incredibly strong. Apple has a very firm stance on privacy, so you don’t have to worry about information being used or resold. Simply put, without industrial-strength malware on your device, it’s nigh impossible for anyone to see your messages.

However, there’s a big problem with iCloud backups, which are enabled by default. When the device backs up your messages to the cloud, it encrypts them first. However, a copy of the encryption key is sent to Apple too.

If you really want to clamp down on security, you can disable iCloud backups for messages and create locally encrypted backups instead via Finder (macOS) or iTunes (Windows).


3. WhatsApp – The best encrypted messaging app for everyday use

Screenshot of WhatsApp App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
Massive user base — makes it ubiquitousPossible data sharing with Facebook
Convenient and simple user interfacePhone number required to set up an account
Uses Signal’s encryption protocolNot open-source

Seeing WhatsApp this high on the list may be surprising. But with over 2 billion users, it’s the most used and popular messaging app in the world. WhatsApp conversations have been encrypted end-to-end, using Signal’s protocol, since 2016.

As a result, WhatsApp offers a secure and safe way to connect with your friends and family through messages, voice and video calls.

WhatsApp’s security is further bolstered with two-step verification, which requires a PIN to verify your phone number. It also doesn’t store messages on its servers while in transit to the recipient, much like Apple’s iMessage service.

WhatsApp’s popularity stems from the variety of features it offers users. These include large groups, disappearing messages, money transfer (in some countries), and file sharing.

However, Facebook owns WhatsApp. It’s obvious that the two companies exchange metadata. While this excludes chats and messages, it can give rise to concerns for some users.

WhatsApp was also targeted by the Pegasus surveillance hack, enabling surveillance of its users by governments and other entities. You can reduce some of these concerns by checking and altering your WhatsApp privacy settings.

WhatsApp should be your pick if you’re looking for a widely-used encrypted messaging app with a rich set of features.


4. Threema – The most secure paid messaging app

Screenshot of Threema App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
End-to-end encryption for all chatsExtremely limited user base
No information is required for sign upNo free version
Open-source

Threema prioritizes user safety and security above all else and requires a paid subscription. It uses an incredibly robust encryption protocol, entitled the Network and Cryptography Library (NaCL) to encrypt all messages. The encryption also covers voice notes, calls, and even files.

Threema’s open-source nature further adds to its credibility as a secure messaging app. It’s mainly targeted towards enterprise customers, however.

No personal information is required to set up a Threema account. Instead, the app generates a unique ID key that can be used to contact users. Additionally, Threema deletes users’ messages from its servers regularly.

Even contact lists are stored locally on the user’s device, so the app has virtually no information at all about its users.

Groups on Threema are decentralized, which means that no information is stored about which groups a user has joined. The app also offers the ability to protect individual chats using a dedicated PIN.

It’s clear that Threema really is a top-notch encrypted messaging app based on our analysis. However, this top-notch security comes with a price of $3.99 for a single-user license.

The lack of widespread adoption, especially amongst English-speakers, is another downside. But, if you work in a high-risk industry and really want to buckle down on user privacy, this is a small price to pay given the features that Threema has to offer.

You should look no further than Threema if security and anonymity are your foremost priorities when selecting a messaging app.


5. Telegram – The most feature-rich encrypted messaging app

Screenshot of Telegram App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
Large groups and communitiesEncryption is not enabled by default
Value-added features like folders and botsPhone number is required to create an account
Questions around its encryption protocol

Over the last few years, Telegram has become the go-to messaging app for users wanting to interact with large groups. Groups with up to 200,000 people can be created on Telegram! Some other nifty features include folders to organize your chats and unlimited file sharing. It’s so secure that many governments and even third-party organizations use it.

While Telegram has no dearth of features, its security is slightly questionable. For instance, it encrypts messages using its MTProto encryption, which is not as reliable as other proven protocols. Moreover, users need to switch to “Secret Chat” mode to enable encryption. In other words, encryption is not enabled by default.

Despite these concerns, Telegram does pack some solid security features, such as a “Self-Destruct Timer” and two-step verification. Telegram accounts are also automatically deleted after 6 months of inactivity.

Moreover, the app is open source and has a running hacking/bug bounty that rewards anyone who can decrypt Telegram messages with $300,000.

Telegram’s utility far exceeds that of a regular messaging app and it borders on being on a social media app. It’s one of the best text messaging apps if you’re looking to share large files or interact with larger groups.


6. WickrMe – The best enterprise messaging app with strong encryption

Screenshot of WickrMe App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
Uses 256-bit end-to-end encryptionFunctionality is limited relative to other apps
Offers a suite of security and privacy-related featuresRecently purchased by Amazon
Open-source

Wickr has built a reputation as a privacy-first messaging app. It’s so secure that American Forces use it to communicate securely with each other. Messages on Wickr are protected using 256-bit perfect-forward secrecy, which means that every message is secured with a new key.

This makes it very difficult for hackers to decipher user messages even if they manage to hack the servers, which would be a feat in itself since all data is backed on AWS.

Additionally, Wickr messages are auto-deleted after being read or once the user-determined period expires. Some other notable security features include multi-factor authentication, device encryption at rest, and secure link previews.

Each of these helps maintain the integrity and privacy of your communications, making it ideal for use for government agencies or enterprise applications.

Hence, Wickr is definitely an outstanding messaging from a security and encryption standpoint. However, the free version, which caters to individuals, lacks some important value-added features.

For instance, file sharing is limited to a mere 10Mb. Video and voice calls are 1:1 only i.e., there are no group calls. The size of chat groups is also limited to just 10.

Wickr’s recent purchase by Amazon has also set off some alarm bells amongst privacy enthusiasts. But, for now, there’s no indication that Amazon intends to whittle away its focus on privacy and security. Hence, Wickr remains one of the best secure text messaging apps on the market for enterprise use.


7. Viber – The best encrypted messaging app for communities

Screenshot of Viber App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
One billion worldwide usersThe encryption protocol is not open-source
High-quality encrypted voice and video callsPhone number needed for sign-up
Support for large communities

Viber’s one of the most popular messaging apps in the world and is owned by Rakuten. It blends high-level security with several useful features and is incredibly popular amongst casual users.

All messages, calls, and videos are end-to-end encrypted by default on the security front. Users can also set self-destruct times for all messages in the chat. Moreover, chats can also be hidden and protected with a PIN to prevent unauthorized access.

While a number is required for sign-up, it can be hidden when starting new chats. This helps reduce the personal information visible to other Viber users. Viber’s Community feature is perhaps its most notable.

You can add an unlimited number of members to a Community without disclosing the member’s phone numbers. As a result, Viber is particularly useful for content creators wishing to communicate with their fans.

Viber is one of the best overall encrypted messaging apps you can use. But its encryption protocol is not open-source, which detracts from transparency. Moreover, creating a Viber account requires a phone number, so, it’s not completely anonymous.


8. Wire – The best encrypted messaging app for small businesses

Screenshot of Wire App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
End-to-end encryptionFocus on enterprise users; limited free version
Regular security auditsUser base of just 500,000 people
A suite of team management features
Open-source

Users can send 100% end-to-end encrypted messages, files, and images using Wire. Its encryption protocol is open-source and can be verified by anyone. Wire is located in Germany, which is a relatively privacy-friendly nation too.

Its target market comprises mainly enterprises and companies. As a result, it offers several team management functions. These include encrypted video conferencing, calendar integration, invoicing, and billing. The service can be deployed on-cloud or on-premises.

Wire’s free version can be used by up to five members and features team management, messaging, and zero-trust cloud. However, customer support and calendar integrations are only available for the Enterprise versions.

Given its small user base and focus on enterprises, Wire isn’t the best option for individual users. But if you’re looking to connect with your team at work securely, then it’s one of the best options on this list.


9. Dust – The best encrypted messaging app with added privacy features 

Screenshot of Dust App website with logo added in the corner

ProsCons
Strong encryptionThe overall feature set is limited
Auto-deletion of messages after 24 hoursRelatively small install base
Features anonymous messagingNo active development since 2019

Dust claims to be the world’s most secure messaging app. It uses a mix of 128-bit and RSA encryption to protect all messages. More importantly, messages are deleted 100 seconds after being read or after 24 hours if left unread.

Messages on Dust are sent through Dust’s RAM-based servers, which means they are never stored permanently.

A phone number is required while signing up for Dust. However, this is not displayed to your other contacts on Dust, making the app virtually anonymous. In addition to messages sent to friends and family, Dust can be used to send “Blasts” to a user’s followers.

These can be thought of as private Tweets or broadcasts. Screenshots of messages are also disabled by default on the app.

Dust lacks some notable features available on other apps due to its heavy focus on security. For instance, you can’t make voice or video calls. Groups can only consist of 26 users, a far cry from Telegram’s 200,000.

Moreover, the fact that messages are automatically deleted makes it particularly difficult to carry conversations forward.


Encrypted Messaging Apps That Didn’t Make the Cut

The apps listed in the previous section provide the best combination of encryption, security, and usability. However, there are several other apps that provide encrypted messaging but lack other important features due to which they didn’t make the cut. These apps are:

Facebook Messenger

Facebook logo horizontal blueFacebook Messenger is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. Enabling “Secret Conversations” on Facebook Messengers encrypts your messages end-to-end using Signal’s protocol.

However, this is not enabled by default and must be turned on in the Settings tab. Users can also enable self-destructing messages, with a time period of five seconds to 24 hours.

Despite these security features, we do not recommend Messenger. Facebook has a noted history of sharing user data with third parties, as was revealed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Silence

Silence messaging app logoSilence is a messaging app that brings encryption to SMS and MMS. It acts as a replacement for the default messaging app and applies Signal’s encryption protocol to normal messages.

While this is certainly a useful tool, no updates to Silence have been released recently. As a result, we’re apprehensive about recommending it to our readers. The lack of updates means the app is more susceptible to exploits and hacks.

Line

Line messaging app logoLine is more than just a messaging app. Its app ecosystem includes VoIP calls, gaming, healthcare, and money transfers. These features make it the most popular messaging app in parts of Asia. Its “Letter Sealing” features allow users to send encrypted messages.

However, encryption is limited to messages only. It does not encrypt voice notes, images, or files. Doubt also exists about how robust Line’s encryption protocols really are. As a result, Line isn’t one of our recommended encrypted messaging apps.


Use a VPN for Maximum Online Security

Using any one of the apps mentioned above is a great way to secure the messages, photos, files, and videos you share. However, securing your privacy online goes beyond just using a secure messaging app. It also includes the sites you visit, the social media platforms you use, and the different apps you interact with.

A virtual private network is one of the most effective ways to completely secure your online privacy. It encrypts and reroutes your internet activity, preventing malicious actors or third parties from identifying you online.

A VPN can also help overcome government-imposed censorship and bypass geo-blocks imposed by streaming platforms.

There are several premium VPNs to choose from, and you can choose from our list of the top 5 VPNs in 2022. If you’re in a rush, then we’d recommend using NordVPN. It’s incredibly affordable and offers great speeds, terrific privacy, and security, and an extensive network of servers.

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Final Thoughts on Using Encrypted Messaging Apps

With data breaches, hacks, and surveillance on the rise, using an encrypted messaging app is a must to preserve your digital privacy. Signal is the best overall messaging app, as it’s open-source, uses a reliable encryption protocol, and has all the essential features you’d expect from a top messaging app.

If security and privacy are your foremost concern, then Dust and Wickr should top your list. But these apps lack notable features like voice calling, which is why they’re not at the top. Some business messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams also encrypt your messages.

FAQ: The Best Encrypted Messaging Apps for Total Security in 2022

We provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the best encrypted messaging apps in the section below.

Signal is the most secure messaging app right now. However, there are several other popular encrypted messaging apps that you can try out.

Both iMessage and WhatsApp provide end-to-end encryption for messages, chats, and other files. However, messages received from non-iOS devices through Messages are not encrypted. On the other hand, all messages on WhatsApp are encrypted. But, some metadata and other information is shared with Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company.

iMessage is also a service for Apple users only.

Signal is the best encrypted messaging app on the market. It uses a reliable encryption protocol and is open-source. Moreover, it’s owned and run by a non-profit foundation that has no incentive to monetize user data. Signal’s utility features, such as voice calling and file sharing, are also on par with other leading encrypted messaging apps.

Tech journalist
Mohit is a legal and public policy researcher whose work focuses largely on technology regulation. At VPNOverview, he writes about cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies and sports events.