Secure messaging apps: why, what, and how

Sara Ana Cemazar
July 29, 2021
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5
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Secure messaging apps have always been highly valued among their consumers - but the security ladder keeps going higher and higher. The technology is advancing at a high speed, and organizations are trying to ensure the strictest security standards for messaging apps their employees use.

Namely, ever since the abrupt switch to a remote work environment in 2020, companies are seeing a rise in cybersecurity breaches. These security breaches occur, among other reasons, as a consequence of workers’ usage of insufficiently secure messaging apps for work matters.

Read on to find out the following:

WHY companies opt for secure messaging apps

HOW are messaging apps exposing your conversations

WHAT security features to look for in your messaging apps.

📚 Before you start, get our end-to-end guide on team collaboration in hybrid workplaces.

Why companies opt for secure messaging apps

You might be wondering what the fuss is all about. We all use numerous messaging apps in our daily lives, and hardly ever notice any security issues.

However, companies operate under much more scrutiny. Secure messaging apps are often one of the most sought-after tools in organizations that deal with sensitive information, yet understand how important effective team collaboration is.

Without further ado, these are the biggest reasons why companies strongly prefer secure messaging apps.

Customers care about data protection

83% of US citizens would stop consuming from a business after it experienced a cybersecurity breach. Moreover, in 2019, 52% of Americans refused to use services or products due to privacy concerns.

What this tells us is that data security is very important to customers. Therefore, companies opt for secure messaging apps in order to protect customer data while enabling seamless team communication.

secure messaging apps

Vulnerabilities are everywhere

In their everyday work life, employees use on average 9.4 apps. Indeed, one of the main challenges of digital workplaces is avoiding app fatigue, so employers tend to encourage connecting the many tools that workers use.

However, as business processes become more automated and interconnected, the possibilities of cybersecurity breaches multiply. By enabling the use of secure messaging apps, companies diminish security risks instead of increasing them.

Cybersecurity breaches are costly

According to IBM’s research, the average cost of a data breach in the US is a whopping $3.8 million, and it takes 280 days on average to identify and contain it.

The numbers only grow higher due to the rise of hybrid work environments. Namely, 1 in 5 of IT executives say they have experienced a security breach as a result of a remote worker in 2020.

More alarmingly, 53% of employees use consumer communication apps like WhatsApp, Viber, or Telegram, for work. Although many of these apps are end-to-end encrypted, they still don’t adhere to other security standards of companies - simply because they were never meant to be used by businesses.

secure messaging apps

📚  Learn more about WhatsApp in our quick guide for secure messaging.

Secure messaging apps thus represent not only a wise business decision, but also a way to prevent the financial loss to the company.

Reputation is the king

As Warren Buffet says - it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.

Secure messaging apps are just one aspect of the security bundle that companies are searching for. Nevertheless, they are an important aspect of businesses whose brand relies on strictest security standards.

How messaging apps are exposing your data?

In this day and age, secure messaging is a hot topic. Companies are more interested than ever to dig deep and really understand how their data is being used.

This is why we hosted a webinar on secure communication, sharing how messaging apps can expose your data and which features to look for in order to ensure secure communication.

Here are the most common ways messaging apps are exposing your data.

Requesting permissions beyond necessary

Many messaging apps demand almost limitless access to your data. Their reach goes way beyond the data necessary for messaging, such as location, files, and other.

Think twice when you see this request from your communication provider - and ask why do they need this data exactly?

Harvesting and sales of metadata

Although many secure messaging apps swear by maintaining data privacy, many also harvest, research, and sell metadata. Of course, metadata is only data about data - but when different metadata information is combined, whoever buys them can still get a pretty clear picture of the end-users preferences, online habits, and other.

Taking risks on your behalf with centralized data storage

Many messaging systems have centralized user data storage. This makes all their users’ data subject to attack. Therefore, users don’t own nor control their data - which makes it harder to protect it.

📚 Scroll down to see one of the most important features of secure messaging apps - on-premise hosting!

Inability to refuse new terms and conditions

Closed-source messaging apps can contain hidden code, or have ambiguous terms and conditions policy that they can change at any time without any notice.

Of course - you don’t have to accept new terms and conditions if you don’t want to. However, you might be unable to access existing data and content.

Harvesting and uploading mobile contacts without consent

How many times did you notice that apps have uploaded your mobile contacts without little or no consent from you?

This is just another version of harvesting user data, and isn’t something that secure messaging apps should be able to do without consent.

secure messaging apps

How to ensure safe messaging in your company

Safe collaboration platforms are a must in companies, but what features should you look for to ensure your messaging adheres to highest security standards?

Apart from being compliant with industry or geographically specific regulations, like GDPR in Europe or HIPAA in the healthcare industry in the US, every organization should look for certain properties in their messaging platforms.

To help you out, we made this list of most secure messaging apps on the market today.

Here is a list of features that every secure messaging app should have.

End-to-end encryption

End-to-end encryption is one of the prerequisites for secure messaging. Its name says it - message is encrypted and can only be decoded by the participants of the conversation. This prevents potential eavesdroppers from intercepting communication - since third parties and even administrators cannot see the message.

📚 Have a look at our list of best encrypted messaging apps.

Most messaging apps support encrypted texting, with WhatsApp popularizing it in consumer communications. However, secure messaging apps for business require safety triggers beyond end-to-end encryption.

Why? Because fully encrypted communication isn’t worth much if the security of the communicating parties is endangered for other reasons.

Open source code

Many messaging apps are close-sourced, like MS Teams or Slack. This means that they own the code themselves and don’t disclose it. Although this might seem like an advantage, there are actually much more upsides to an open source code.

Namely, open-sourced apps like Rocket.Chat allow everyone to see their code. This allows the developer community to not only check the code, but also to highlight possible risks and improve the platform so it doesn’t experience cyber attacks.

For example, Rocket.Chat’s GitHub community includes more than 30k people right now, which speaks volumes about the constant improvement to our code.

Furthermore, more than 50% of IT leaders say that increased cybersecurity risks are their #1 concern when it comes to digital transformation. This shows why lately there is so much demand for Slack open source alternatives when it comes to secure messaging apps.

secure messaging apps

On premise hosting

Although cloud-based solutions are immensely popular, 92% of companies indicate that the on-premise software sales are growing. Additionally, 65% of companies say the top 2 reasons for purchasing on-prem solutions are security and data protection.

According to experts, on-premise is the key feature when it comes to secure messaging apps. Namely, this feature allows organizations to be in full ownership of their data and avoid possible cyber attacks aimed at their solution provider.

Organizations with high security standards often opt for self-hosted software, and so was the case with onShore security when they chose Rocket.Chat as their collaboration platform.

secure messaging apps

Multi factor authentication

Multi factor authentication is a crucial feature for enterprise-grade security. It is also an essential component of secure messaging apps.

It is a basic way to confirm that the user that wants to enter the app is undoubtedly that user. Therefore, users enter the app after two or more authentications - for example, via username & password combination and entering a code sent to their (previously deemed secure) mobile device.

Why is it crucial for companies to look for messaging apps that have this functionality? Because losses from identity theft cases cost eyebrow-raising $712 billion in 2020 alone. When a company deals with sensitive customer data, they have a strong incentive to enforce this cybersecurity feature.

secure messaging apps

Safe integrations

We’ve described all the ways that messaging apps could be exposing your data in the previous chapter. Therefore, you know how important it is for secure messaging apps to have safe integrations with third-party applications.

Moreover, it is best if the integrations are reduced to a minimum. For example, you need to install third party apps if you want to use voice messages in Slack. In that case, users succumb to those third party apps’ terms of service.

This has only contributed to the increase of searches for Slack alternatives on the market.

Other security features to look for

Here are some other nice-to-have features of secure messaging apps:

  • OAuth with Identity Providers like Google, Okta, and more
  • Single Sign-On
  • Data loss prevention techologies
  • ID-only push notifications
  • LDAP/Active directory

📚 Read this for a more in-depth look at messaging apps security features. Also, take a look at five security features every company should keep in mind.

Enabling safe and seamless collaboration

Did you know that Rocket.Chat was named one of the top 20 best live chat solutions two years in a row? We pride ourselves on enabling seamless collaboration for many teams worldwide while focusing on privacy-first communication.

As Rocket.Chat offers unmatched security standards in the world of business communication, we became a first choice for companies paying utmost attention to their cybersecurity - like government or healthcare institutions.

If you want to put data protection into every conversation, get in touch with our team to see why we are one of the most secure messaging apps on the market!

Sara is an SEO Strategist at Rocket.Chat. She is passionate about topics around digital transformation, workplace experience, open source, and data privacy and security.
Sara Ana Cemazar
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