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WhatsApp alternatives, like Telegram, deemed unsafe by security test

This has been a big issue since the announcement of WhatsApp’s acquisition by Facebook: which WhatsApp alternative messenger is better, especially with regard to data protection? Many alternatives have been gaining popularity over the internet, however there many that might not be as safe as you might have imagined, if you believe this leading German consumer safety group that is.

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© Twin Design/ Shutterstock/hike, joyn, BBM, telegram, threema/AndroidPIT

Five messaging services were tested in total: WhatsApp, Threema, Telegram, BlackBerry Messenger and Line. The focus wasn’t set on aspects such as functionality and usability or how wide the user base is. In other words, they didn’t check the extent at which each messenger fulfills its core competency, but concentrated rather only on data security.

Out of the five tested apps, three were rated as ‘very critical’ in looking at their data protection technology. These were WhatsApp, Line and BlackBerry Messenger. This is especially interesting because the latter receives a great deal of unwarranted confidence from users. In our survey ‘What is your WhatsApp alternative?’, most designated BBM as their future WhatsApp alternative. In their product test, it’s not clear whether they tested version 2.0 of BBM, but seeing as the test is quite recent, it would be strange for them to have used an outdated version.

Even Telegram, an app often described as a messenger, which has been praised and quoted as being secure, received ‘critical’ marks for privacy in this product test.

The huge exception

The only service that the German product test could decipher as ‘not critical’ is the Swiss app Threema. Nonetheless, there is was a big ‘but’:

Threema isn’t open-source software. A complete analysis of the data transmission performance is therefore not possible. The examiner can rule out that the app transmits unencrypted user data, but whether they will eventually communicate encrypted data cannot be determined free of doubt. - Stiftung Warentest (German product test)

Of course, a hidden connection to the NSA can theoretically not be ruled out for any existing messenger, as Facebook and other services like to imply. Also, it’s always possible that one of these apps could be bought. This risk grows as the services grow and attract more attention. However, for the moment at least, the judgment ordained by the official German product test is clear: Threema is, at least among the four apps tested here, is currently the only real WhatsApp alternative if privacy is your priority. You can read and translate the entire German product test at your leisure.

I for one believe the Germans when it comes to product quality! What app are you using for messaging right now?

Threema Install on Google Play Telegram Install on Google Play BBM Install on Google Play LINE: Free Calls & Messages Install on Google Play WhatsApp Messenger Install on Google Play


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  • If you hate whatsapp, then you could find an alternative instant messenger app called Nectatchat which has awesome sticker features.

  • 2
    Mark Mar 2, 2014 Link to comment

    I still trust Telegram more than Threema because they are at least mostly open-source and have promised to go completely open source soon. Better yet: Surespot (Android and iPhone) or Kontalk (only Android so far), both of which are 100% open source projects. I have both installed

  • My1 Mar 1, 2014 Link to comment

    @Loie it's Stiftung Warentest. But I dont rly think that threema gas an nsa connection, I mean why should they? They are in Switzerland, tjey can't be sued into giving out their data. Worst thibg would be that the nsa uses some rly troublesome tech to decrypt the messages. I mean, they even deemed ssl as bad...

  • RonV Mar 1, 2014 Link to comment

    Telegram uses peer to peer encryption leaving no traces in any servers when communicating in secure chat mode with other contacts. Since there is a 200k bounty if you can crack telegrams encryption did this German win this contest and claim their prize ? I guess not. This article is very vague on why BBM, telegram and others aren't secure as we are lead to believe. The founder of telegram clearly says Telegram is not for sale and is for the people and will never be sold. The Germans are all fleeing to Threema so I think these tests are biased towards Threema and very vague.

  • What a terrible title/article. "Telegram deemed unsafe"? That doesn't appear anywhere in the German report.

    Subjective nonsense.

  • Well... Telegram is mentioned in the Danish national press as og yesterday. yet no words om safety other than what have been released by the app developer them self. So.... That much for "real" news and journalism.

    • Loie Favre
      • Admin
      • Staff
      Feb 27, 2014 Link to comment

      They probably didn't test this app with a fine-tooth comb like the German ''Stiftung Wahrtentest'', who really value quality and give trustworthy product reports.

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