You’ve almost certainly used an instant messaging app before. In fact, you probably use one on a daily basis, and you’re very likely to use apps like Facebook Messenger – which isn’t secure or private.
Fortunately, there are safe alternatives that keep your messages private and don’t collect or sell your personal information. Wickr is one of them. So what is Wickr and how does it work? Is Wickr safe? How does it compare to other encrypted messaging apps?
What is Wickr and how does it work?
Wickr was developed in 2012 by a group of cybersecurity and online privacy experts based in New York City. The app was first released for iOS and then for Android, while the Windows version was launched in 2014. Wickr is now available on all platforms above, plus Mac and Linux.
There are three main versions of Wickr: Wickr Me, Wickr Pro and Wickr Enterprise.
Wickr Me is designed for individuals, but allows for both individual and group messaging (no more than 10 members), individual audio and video calling, and file sharing. Wickr Pro is designed for business, so groups can have up to 500 members and up to 70 users can participate in audio and video calls and share large files. The highly customizable Enterprise version offers additional features and is best suited for large organizations.
The basic version of Wickr is free. Silver, Gold, and Platinum cost $4.99, $9.99, and $25.00 per user per month, respectively.
Wickr Security: How secure and private is this app?
At a glance, Wickr looks, feels and works like any other messaging app: it allows users to exchange text messages, photos, videos and files. But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a robust and complex zero-trust cybersecurity infrastructure with advanced cryptography and numerous security features.
Wickr is 256-bit end-to-end encrypted and uses multiple layers of encryption to protect user data and privacy. Messages, files, audio and video calls are all encrypted locally – a new, random key is used each time. Only the public key is transmitted to Wickr’s servers, while the private key is stored on the user’s device.
In other words, when you send a message through Wickr, nobody can read it except the person you’re communicating with (no, not even Wickr has access to your messages). So if a cybercriminal were to target your Wickr account, they would literally have to have all the time in the world to break in, as it would take trillions of years to decrypt just one key.
Even if you don’t know anything about encryption, the Wickr protocol sounds bulletproof, but in terms of security, the fact that all messages sent through the app are ephemeral is arguably just as important. they disappear and self-destruct. You can choose when. More importantly, Wickr’s Secure Shredder destroys them in such a way that they can never be recovered or viewed again.
Of course, Wickr also uses common (for lack of a better term) security mechanisms like multi-factor authentication and screenshot recognition. Wickr does not collect any user data and does not store any communication metadata. It collects some telemetry data, but again this can be turned off in the settings.
You don’t need a phone number or email address to use the basic version of Wickr. All you have to do is download the app, come up with a unique username and password, and that’s it. Of course, you cannot recover your account if you lose your password or username, but you can always create a new one.
As mentioned above, the other versions of Wickr are paid, so you need to provide the app with some personal information in order to use it. However, if you decide to go silver, gold, or platinum, make sure you use a secure email service to sign up and maintain your privacy.
Transparency makes all the difference when it comes to privacy-focused software, and Wickr excels in this regard. The app is not open source, but its crypto code is also available on Github. In addition, Wickr enables third-party audits and sends transparency reports. The reports dating back to 2013 are available in the app official site.
Wickr also runs a fairly generous bug bounty program. So if you manage to find security holes or vulnerabilities in its systems, you can get up to $100,000.
And then there’s the issue of user base, or lack thereof. Around five million people have downloaded Wickr from Google Play. In comparison, WhatsApp has recorded more than five billion downloads on the same store. Your friends probably haven’t even heard of Wickr, let alone used it, which defeats the entire purpose of having a messaging app on your phone.
Still, there is certainly a market for private and secure collaboration platforms.
How does Wickr compare to other encrypted messaging apps?
There would be no point in comparing Wickr to mainstream messaging apps as it’s obviously more secure and much more private than all the others. But how does Wickr compare to other secure, encrypted messaging apps?
Signal and Telegram have become very popular in recent years, while apps like Wire and Speek are starting to make their mark. But what Signal and Telegram have and Wickr doesn’t are large user bases. Wire, on the other hand, is geared towards businesses. Speek routes all traffic through the Tor network, which provides an extra layer of security.
Wickr: Private messaging for businesses and individuals
Wickr has yet to expand its user base to a point where ordinary people will use it to communicate with each other, but even if it never matches the popularity of WhatsApp and similar services, it could become indispensable as a secure collaboration platform for businesses and large organizations .
If you’re looking for an encrypted messaging app to talk to friends and family, there are a number of safe and private alternatives to consider.
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