What is End-to-End Encryption?

By Adedayo Ebenezer Oyetoke Published on: May 28th 2023 | 6 mins, 1035 words Views: 719

End-to-end encryption prevents any bad actors from picking up your messages in between you and the person you're sending a message to. Basically, end-to-end encryption means that your messages are for your eyes and the eyes of your recipient only.
End-to-end encryption used to be for the tech savvy and elite only — but more recently, tons of apps and platforms have made end-to-end encryption available to the masses.

What is end-to-end encryption and how does it work?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. In principle, it prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, malicious actors, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation.

End-to-end encryption means no one — not hackers, not government officials, not the company that owns your device — can read your message while it's being sent. It basically takes your message, jumbles it up, sends it, and unjumbles it once it reaches your recipient.

So anyone who tries to intercept your message in between you and your recipient just gets a bunch of mess instead of the message itself. This is important because messages can pass through loads of hands on their way from sender to recipient, such as the service you use to send the message, the internet service providers involved, and servers that store the message data for any amount of time.

Does it protect you against everything?Nope! 

End-to-end encryption protects your privacy against anything trying to mess with your messages in between you and your recipient, but it won't protect you against everything. It protects you from information inside a message, but doesn't protect metadata about the message, like the date and time it was sent or who sent it and received it. It also doesn't protect you from the recipient of your message sharing whatever information you send them.

If I'm not sending secret messages, does it really matter?

Whether or not you use apps with end-to-end encryption is ultimately up to your personal taste. Some people like using end-to-end encryption for all of their messaging because they prioritize privacy, and it's often free and just as easy to use as other apps that offer fewer privacy-focused features. Overall, end-to-end encryption is just one way you can use your right to privacy.

Which apps use end-to-end encryption?

If you want to jump into the fray of end-to-end encryption, there couldn't be an easier time than now. Some apps cost money and some are free, and they all offer different features, so pick one that feels right for you.

  • WhatsApp: End-to-end encryption is used when you chat with another person using WhatsApp Messenger. End-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you're communicating with can read or listen to what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. This is because with end-to-end encryption, your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them. All of this happens automatically: no need to turn on any special settings to secure your messages.

  • Telegram: Telegram support two layers of secure encryption. Server-client encryption is used in Cloud Chats (private and group chats), Secret Chats use an additional layer of client-client encryption. All data, regardless of type, is encrypted in the same way — be it text, media or files. Our encryption is based on 256-bit symmetric AES encryption, 2048-bit RSA encryption, and Diffie–Hellman secure key exchange. You can find more info in the Advanced FAQ.

  • Facebook Messenger End-to-end encryption adds extra security and protection to your messages and calls in a conversation so that only you and whoever you're talking to can see, hear or read them. The content of your messages and calls in an end-to-end encrypted conversation is protected from the moment it leaves your device to the moment it reaches the receiver’s device. This means that nobody during this delivery, including Facebook, can see or listen to what's sent or said.

  • Viber: End-to-end encryption means that only the sender and the intended receiver have access to the contents of a message. Neither Viber nor anyone or anything else can read encrypted messages. Each Viber account has a unique key. When you send a message using Viber, your messages are encrypted (locked) while they are in transit and then decrypted (unlocked) when they reach the intended recipient. If the message doesn’t reach the recipient immediately (for example, because their phone is switched off), it will remain encrypted on Viber’s servers until it can be delivered. Viber can’t decrypt any encrypted messages and doesn’t hold onto messages once they have been delivered.

  • Proton Mail: With Proton Mail, emails are encrypted at all times, so we can never access your messages. The content of your emails is encrypted on your device before being sent to our servers, meaning only you and your intended recipient can decrypt it.

End-to-end encryption is coming to Google Messages group texts

The expanded feature will arrive as an open beta later this year.

Almost a year after Google switched on end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for one-on-one chats in the Messages app, it says it's bringing those protections to group texts. The expanded feature will be available as an open beta later this year, the company said today at its I/O 2022 developer conference.

Google hasn't revealed more details about E2EE in group chats, but it will surely be similar to how the option works in one-on-one conversations. Everyone in the group will need to have RCS chat functions switched on to use the feature. You'll be able to tell if a message you're about to share with the group is encrypted if there's a lock icon on the send button.

The Messages app now has more than 500 million monthly active users with RCS. So, there's already a large number of people who'd be able to take advantage of E2EE in group chats. If everyone does enable RCS and E2EE, it'll be much more difficult for snoopers to see the messages the group members are sharing with each other.

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