Signal Private Messenger – What is it and how does it work?

Last Updated by Benjamin Walsh on February 05, 2019

What is Signal Private Messenger?

Signal Private Messenger Android Signal is an open source messaging app which is free to install and easy to use.

It’s designed to replace SMS; ideal if you have family, friends, or work contacts abroad, as you can avoid expensive international charges.

Interface

Signal Private MessengerThe design is simple with an interface easy to navigate, so it’ll be easy to convince more people to try it out. Just like SMS function on a cellphone, Signal displays messages in color-coded text boxes.

Open Source

Open source means the code is publicly available, which means anyone can independently edit it, and vulnerabilities can be exposed and fixed.

Essentially, anything open-sourced means it’s continually being updated by its community to make it as efficient, safe, secure, and private as possible.

Privacy and Security

Although the client app looks basic, its privacy settings are actually quite sophisticated. Every message you send is secured via end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption, so only intended recipients can read it.

Resultingly, hackers, companies, ISPs, and any other third-party attempting to intercept the comms won’t be able to observe the content.

The app encryption also applies to phone calls; however, the level is not as high as with the messaging. Maintaining a high level of encryption over phone calls would require a tremendous amount of processing power which could, in turn, affect the quality of the phone call. If you are exchanging highly sensitive information, it’s more secure to do so by text.

Other Noteworthy Privacy and Security Features

  • Passphrase
    There is a passphrase option to lock call logs, messages, and notifications. You should assign a passphrase if your device contains sensitive information or important contacts on your phone, or if you just prefer greater privacy.
  • Incognito Keyboard
    Incognito keyboard, similarly to incognito modes for web browsers, won’t record or store your keyboard strokes for predictive spelling, usernames, or passwords.
  • Disappearing messages
    You can enable expiring messages (think Snapchat) on Signal. For many, this can be considered a novelty, but when exchanging valuable information, it can be a useful feature.
  • Contact Verification
    Signal’s contact verification feature gives you the ability to verify the identity of all contacts by assigning each conversation a unique safety number, which helps you ensure you always contact the intended recipient and never a wrong number.

Potential issues

1 Baseband Processor

A baseband processor is implemented in all current smartphones, acting like a secondary,  closed source operating system that your phone utilizes, which is not well documented, and understanding of it is generally vague. Though this is not a Signal Private Messenger issue, it can lead to complications.

By default, every baseband processor trusts any data received from a station like a cell tower; no checks are performed. Resultingly, ISPs could potentially bypass Signal’s encryption and access all the information on your phone.

2 Google Play Services

The official Signal android app uses Google Play Services for installation and running. A reliance on a separate service can be considered a flaw in Signals security as the software allows Google to monitor the device.

3 Blocked in Some Countries

For security purposes, governments in some countries aren’t overly keen on individuals being able to communicate in complete privacy, with information encoded, and have banned Signal Private Messenger. Currently, Signal is blocked in Egypt, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and China.

How to Overcome These Issues

Virtual Private Network (VPN)It’s possible to overcome the potential issues listed above and also bolster your security by using a VPN.

Using a VPN will not only provide you with an extra layer of privacy and security, but it will also allow you to connect to more global servers.

When you connect to a server in a different country to yours, you deceive any website, app, or online service into believing that you are actually there.

Therefore, with a VPN, you can use Signal Private Messenger in many countries, including where it’s currently banned.

Our top recommended VPN services for use with Signal.

Rank
Provider name
Our score
Price
Top Choice
1.
Top Choice
NordVPN
$3.49 / month
Save 71%
Top Choice
2.
Top Choice
ExpressVPN
$6.67 / month
Save 48%
Top Choice
3.
Top Choice
CyberGhost VPN
$2.75 / month
Save 77%
Benjamin Walsh
After earning his degree in Business, Ben decided to pursue his passion for marketing, writing and content development within the technology and cyber security industry. He would like to continue traveling and embracing other countries and cultures while furthering his career.