Everyone knows that disappearing messages rarely disappear entirely—thank you, screenshots. But in the wake of the targeted hack of celebrity iCloud accounts, popular ephemeral messaging apps might be a better way to share your potentially embarrassing photos than storing them in the cloud.
Yes, I realize how sad that sounds.
I can’t in good conscience recommend taking or sharing photos you don’t want anyone other than your partner to see, because this is the 21st century and if someone wants your stuff, they’re going to get it. But if you really want to share private photos and trust your significant other not to splatter your nudes all over 4chan and Reddit—another big if—then ephemeral messaging apps have their advantages.
Not all disappearing messages are created equal. Some apps, like Snapchat and Cyber Dust, notify you when someone takes a screenshot of your message, which is good to know, but those apps don’t prevent screenshots from being taken—they’ll just tell you that your message isn’t going to disappear after all. Then there are the apps like Snap Save that let the recipient bypass Snapchat’s tattle-telling and screenshot your photos on the down-low. Clearly, disappearing messages aren’t super safe.
But mix ephemerality with encryption and you might have a secure combination. According to Apple, hackers targeted specific accounts and used brute force to crack their security questions and passwords. But Wickr, a secure messaging service for iOS and Android, uses salted cryptographic hashing to scramble your ID and end-to-end encryption to prevent your messages—and photos—from being intercepted. Hackers can’t force their way into your account because there’s no unlimited password and security question guessing here. Even if they did, your messages completely disappear from your device and your recipient’s phone with Wickr’s “secure shredder” feature. Wickr doesn’t store copies on its servers.
Wickr is an app for the Edward Snowden era, designed to prevent government nosiness and social network data-mining. But that level of security could benefit users who want to safely send their most private messages.
Important note: Make sure you delete any photos from your Camera Roll that you want to keep out of the wrong hands. If you’re using an iOS device, you also need to delete those photos from your Photo Stream and then sync your iCloud backup. Many celebs thought that just because those nudes had been trashed from their Camera Roll that they were gone for good—not so. My pals at Macworld have a great guide for protecting your NSFW images.
And, of course, there’s no guarantee that your photos are safe, even if they “disappear” from your device. You can always go old-school: Everyone enjoys shaking a Polaroid picture.
This story, "Can disappearing message apps keep your private pics from prying eyes?" was originally published by TechHive.