Is SMS texting secure in 2021

By Max Williams

max@ofperations.com

So I was texting in a group of my family the other day, and I happened to see an article (don’t remember where at the moment, but I will have examples in this blog) regarding SMS texting and how secure or Not secure it is.

The article was saying in a nutshell that whenever you use regular phone SMS texting it’s easy for anyone to see them → examples (hackers, government agencies, lawyers, courts, and etc).

Which kind of interested me, not that I have anything to hide, however I would like to have the option to choose what I expose to the public or anyone else, given the chance.

So it made me think, is there a way of me making my messages private, and if so how?

I think before we can answer that, we first need a little history in what SMS text is.

SMS (Short Message Service) texting in plain language is when you have a cell phone / smartphone and you send a plain text message to another cell phone / smartphone regardless of which cell phone carrier you or the person you are messaging has. Now notice I said “plain text messaging” which in my meaning is clear text messaging.

This is important, because clear text messaging meaning, NEITHER the messages you send or receive on your side or the other person’s side is encrypted (scrambling the message to the point that no one can read it Except the people you want to see it).

How Encryption Works – and How It Can Be Bypassed
by – Wall Street journal

Not only are your SMS text messages sent in clear text to and from your phone, they are also saved at your phone carriers systems for a certain amount of time. That is significant due to the fact, that it is easy to gain access to these saved messages, if you have a legal right to have them, such as a lawyer in a case, can and often do subpoena your text messages from your phone carrier if they need to, check out the following links to articles regarding that –

How long do wireless carriers keep your data?

By NBC news

4 Steps to Acquiring Text Messages by Subpoena in Divorce Cases

By Divorcemag

How to Subpoena Phone Records

By wikiHow

Having just the information and knowledge above makes you really think, maybe you don’t have anything to hide, but do you really want your messages to be exposed to the public in such a manner, I would not.

So what can a person do in such a technical / digital and data driven age?

There is no clear cut answer to this question, but there are a few things you can do to possibly help lessen the pain and risk if you are willing.

1 – instead of using SMS texting to message your friends, family, co-workers, clients, etc, consider using messaging applications that can be easily downloaded on to your phone, that offer end to end encryption (meaning, only you and the person you are messaging can see the message, no one else).

There are a few messaging apps that offer end to end encryption, but use any or either of them with extreme caution, to list a few below —

WhatsApp –

WhatsApp (this application claims it offers end-to-end encryption that not even they can see, however check-out this article regarding their data practices) –

ProPublica

Jeff Bezos had his phone hacked: how it happened, and why

Cnet

Keep in mind how Jeff Bezos was hacked, and the fact that technically, this technique could have been executed on most applications, plain text or encrypted if you click a link.

Signal

Signal is another app, that seems to be or currently is gaining popularity with people who want end-to-end encryption standard.

Check-out this video on signal –

15 Things You Didn’t Know About SIGNAL
by Alux

Two other signal articles of interest (at least to me they are)

New Documents Reveal Government Effort to Impose Secrecy on Encryption Company

By ACLU

Grand jury subpoena for Signal user data, Central District of California

By Signal

Signal has received some funding from the US government backed– Open Technology Fund

as well as other organizations such as

Knight Foundation

Shuttleworth Foundation

As well as others.

iMessage =

Imessage is a apple iPhone app that encrypts data end-to-end, and I hear there is a android version out there as well.

Article by

CNBC

You also may be interested in this article too

How Apple reportedly gave up control of iCloud for business growth in China

by TNW

Facebook Messenger –

facebook messenger does NOT come with encryption by default, but you can activate the encryption feature.

No matter which device or application you use, you should make sure that it is a application that comes with end-to-end encryption for better privacy and security of your data and messages.

Another point might be to check with the applications you have chosen to make sure you check on their back-up policy, as the messages for your application may be encrypted, but the back-up might not be, and the back-up maybe subject to an subpoena, so just make sure you check and verify.

Remember, you are choosing to encrypt your data NOT because you are hiding your data, but because you want to take control of your data and make the decision of who has access to it.

I’m not endorsing one application over another (even though signal does appear to be the current messaging app to use for encryption, and I will be using it), but I would humbly suggest again that you take control of your data by, stop using clear text / SMS text messaging, use an messaging application that provides end-to-end encryption, oh and yes, REALLY consider possibly backing up your phone data locally to your own computer, and not your carrier’s systems, where it might be subject to subpoenas and such.

While none of the suggestions in this article are a permanent fix to the problem of privacy and security of your data, it Will make it harder for anyone whom you DON’T want to have access to your data, to get it, even if they try and use the Law to get it.

I hope this article has been informative and helpful to you in making a decision about how to best protect the data you send and receive on your phone, thank you and until next time.