WhatsApp breach turns into a competitive advantage for secure messaging & calling apps Telegram and Signal
Data from the San Francisco-headquartered app analytics firm App Annie, shared with ET, shows Signal peaked at the 39th position in the social networking app downloads category in India on the iOS app store on November 3, up from its 105th positio...
Data from the San Francisco-headquartered app analytics firm App Annie, shared with ET, shows Signal peaked at the 39th position in the social networking app downloads category in India on the iOS app store on November 3, up from its 105th position just a week ago.
Similarly on Google Play, Signal peaked at 31st position in the communications app downloads category in India on November 1, a jump from its 255th position a week ago.
India is WhatsApp’s largest market, with 400 million users. But the dominance is now showing cracks. As per App Annie, on Google Play, WhatsApp Messenger dropped from the number one position to number four in the most downloaded apps in the communications category on Google Play over the past week trailing behind UC browser, Facebook Messenger and Truecalller.
Security experts said Telegram and Signal, run by a US-based non-profit organisation, among others, are being viewed as having more secure features and updates. Rahul Tyagi, cofounder of IIT-Bombay incubated enterprise cyber security company Lucideus, said an app like Telegram uses MT proto.
The protocol does a lot of checks on a single message a user gets through a variety of ways to gauge the authenticity of messages.
“Besides encryption, it has features like checking the message length. If a user sends a 32 character message, it will also verify if the user received the 32 character message or not. When I send a message, Telegram puts a unique sequence number to every message and when an end user receives that it will check that message with the sequence number to ensure user’s authenticity. These are the things that are checked every time you send a single message, so you can understand the level of protection they are offering,” he said.
“On top of that layer, they give you a range of features like the self-destruct message option in which you can set a timer, say for 15 seconds or 30 seconds, after which your messages will get deleted. The problem with WhatsApp is that from a design perspective the security is not as pronounced, which made it vulnerable to hacks. A lot of security experts have even moved away from Telegram to Signal as its level of encryption and protection mechanism is even better. There has been no news of Signal getting compromised so far. The beauty of Signal is it will give you the same level of security for video call also,” Tyagi added.
Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO of Greyhound Research, said following the WhatsApp breach, his firm did a ‘qualitative consumer survey’ to gauge sentiments and to find out if users would gravitate to other apps.
“The scare with WhatsApp is not new. More informed users have been questioning the security and authenticity that comes with WhatsApp for some time now. But it got accentuated post this revelation. You will see a whole lot of people going to Telegram after this as that’s the easier and well-known choice, while the more evolved users will very quickly gravitate to Signal. I see more users moving to Telegram than Signal as Telegram is more user friendly, while Signal isn’t very well-known yet. It is still a nerds’ brand,” said Gogia.
Cyber security expert Gautam Kumawat, who has trained various state police departments on cyber security and cyber crime, said features like making the chats disappear after a while and the ability to send heavier files work for an app like Telegram.
"If you save something on WhatsApp if goes in the memory of your phone. But Telegram has cloud storage which means all texts, images and documents are saved on the cloud and there is no need for a back up . Users can send any kind of files through Telegram, while WhatsApp limits sharing in terms of size."
Neil Shah, director at Counterpoint Research, pegged Signal’s usage in India at a ‘few hundreds of thousands’ of monthly active users while Telegram’s usage was estimated at about 35-40 million monthly active users. “The applications will gain popularity although they still remain elusive compared to WhatsApp due to strong network effects and because of the fact that most users are still immune to privacy concerns in India,” he added.