Today's trends for tomorrow's business
It’s Time to Ditch SMS
May 18, 2019
Here’s why your employees shouldn’t be using it
Your business already has plenty of cybersecurity measures in place, whether it’s cloud security, multi-factor authentication, or biometrics (hopefully all of the above). You’re very savvy about securing printers and other peripheral hardware to reduce backdoor vulnerabilities. But do your employees ever text each other? Of course they do - and it could set you up for an unexpected data breach.
Text messaging is one of the oldest forms of digital communication (the first SMS text ever sent was way back in 1992). It’s familiar and comfortable and easy for employees to use when they’re offsite or away from their laptop and they need to connect. But SMS messages aren’t encrypted - mobile carriers and the government can view them, and they are vulnerable to hackers as well.
Without end-to-end encryption, even sending a two-factor authorization code poses a risk. SMS messages can also be spoofed, leaving employees vulnerable to a smishing attack, which could compromise any work apps they have installed on their personal mobile device.
Because of all the risks it poses, it’s time to for your employees to ditch SMS messaging permanently. Here are some messaging apps that do provide end-to-end encryption and will keep your employees’ conversations secure.
Security experts agree that Signal is the gold standard for secure messaging - it’s the one you hear people mention when they talk about Edward Snowden or the Mueller Report. It end-to-end encrypts all your communications with other Signal users, whether they are texts, calls or even video chats.
It does require a cell phone number as an identifier (although you can use a dummy SIM card if you want to remain really private). It can even hide a sender’s information. Best of all, it’s free and works on every mobile platform. There’s really no down side (unless you want stickers and emojis…then you’re out of luck).
OK, so it turns out you did want those stickers and emojis. If your employees prefer a messaging app that’s a little more fun, WhatsApp is a surprisingly good option. It has over a billion users worldwide, so chances are good that your team’s familiar with it.
Even better, WhatsApp partnered with the company behind Signal, Open Whisper Systems, to integrate the same end-to-end encrypted chat protocol - so under that cute façade it’s extremely secure. Keep in mind that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, who could change WhatsApp’s encryption model in the future - but it’s a good choice for now.
There are lots of other secure messaging apps vying for your attention, but Telegram stands out because it recently added a feature that lets you delete every message you’ve ever sent or received. That means you can delete entire conversations in a group chat without another member noticing if they haven’t looked at their phone in a while.
This is understandably pretty controversial, but we’re highlighting it because it could prove useful if your employees are using their personal phone numbers as identifiers, which can’t be turned off when they leave the company, and you need to nuke any proprietary conversations you had.
A few more things to keep in mind:
Turn on the timer. Encryption doesn’t work if someone steals and unlocks your actual phone. Setting all your messages to expire is a good policy. If you say something sensitive, it’ll disappear, and there’s no need to save your team lunch plans anyway.
Keep out of the cloud. If you’re backing up your messages to the cloud they’re no longer secure - your cloud service provider can access them.
Avoid desktop apps. Some messaging apps offer desktop versions, which can occasionally be buggy or even expose vulnerabilities. If your team insists on using the desktop app be sure to stay on top of any updates.
Stay up to date. Remind your team to update their app whenever a new version comes out - it’s the best way to stay secure.
Embrace the flexibility of HP’s touch convertible notebooks, which flip from a laptop to a tablet to accommodate all your cool new messaging apps.