Surveillance technologies now available–
including the monitoring of virtually all digital information–
have advanced to the point where
much of the essential apparatus of a police state is already in place.
– Al Gore

The manufacturers or developers (such as Apple, Facebook, Google, etc.) and carriers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) for each party can intercept any traffic that crosses their networks. This interception may extend to any third parties that work with your carrier, such as contractors or subsidiaries. In addition, your local, state, and federal government monitor data in dragnet-style snooping.

How can you communicate easily and securely?

If you are interested in cross-platform, end-to-end encrypted, text, voice and video conferencing solutions, a few options are available.

Wire and Signal are our choices for end-to-end encrypted voice, video, instant messaging, and group communications. Both provide end-to-end encrypted communications between Android, Chrome OS, iOS/iPadOS, macOS, and Windows.

Wire is a for-fee commercial service. It offers a free 30-day trial.

Signal is an independent nonprofit that provides its product and services for free. We use Signal for the rest of this blog.

HIPAA Considerations

HIPAA is concerned about securing Protected Health Information (PHI) from leakage, but at the same time, requires that instant messaging have an audit trail. This requires that all messaging be logged to a centralized server so the log can be reviewed. In addition, HIPAA requires that the vendor be willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). As a BAA puts the vendor at a potential liability should their service or software be found responsible for leaking protected health information, you will not find free or inexpensive software that meets HIPAA compliance requirements.

Most readers of this blog want to leave no record of an encrypted conversation, and have no need of a BAA.

If your instant messaging needs include HIPAA compliance (this requires meeting Joint Commission guidelines), then the rest of this blog does not apply to you. I recommend you perform an internet search to find and assess the few options available. Then work with an IT expert to implement your HIPAA-compliant program.

Signal

Signal is a free platform for peer-to-peer (no centralization) and group secure, end-to-end encrypted communications using instant messaging, voice, and video.

Install Signal

In this assignment, you create a Signal account. This account allows you to make fully secure, encrypted instant messaging, voice calls, and video conferences with friends and business associates.

  • Prerequisite: If you wish to use Signal on a Chrome OS, macOS, or Windows computer, you will first need to create a Signal account registered on an Android or iOS mobile device (performed in this assignment).

Download and install Signal onto a mobile device

  1. On your iOS or Android mobile device, open a browser window to https://signal.org.
  2. Tap Get Signal. If using an iOS device, the App Store opens to Signal-Private Messenger. If using an Android device, the Google Play Store opens to Signal-Private Messenger.
  3. Download and Install Signal to your mobile device.
  4. On your mobile device, open the Signal
  5. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the registration process.

Download and install Signal onto a PC 

  1. Open a browser and go to https://signal.org, then tap the Get Signal
  2. Open the downloaded installer file and follow the prompts to install the app.
  3. Launch Signal.
  4. Signal displays a QR code.
  5. If using an iOS mobile device, open Signal.app > Signal Settings > Linked devices > Link New Device. If using an Android mobile device, tap the + button.
  6. Use your mobile device to scan the QR code.
  7. Assign a name for your Linked Device, then tap Finish.

Your Signal desktop app is now ready to use!

Invite People to Signal

Before you can communicate with someone else using Signal they must also have a Signal account.

In this assignment, you invite someone to install Signal and create an account.

  • Prerequisite: Access to your mobile device with Signal installed.
  1. Open Signal on your phone (invitations do not yet work with Signal Desktop.)
  2. Tap your profile picture in the top left corner > Invite Your Friends.
  3. Select to send either a Message or
  4. A list of all your phone contacts appears. Select the target contact(s), then tap
  5. A new emailmessage is created with each of your target contacts listed in the Bcc field, with a link to downloadSignal on their phone.
  6. Customize the emailto your taste, then tap the Send
  7. Once your target contacts have installed Signalon their phone, you receive a text from Signal they have joined, and their name appears in your Signal Contacts

Secure Instant Message with Signal

In this assignment, you instant message your new Signal friend.

  1. Open Signal (for this assignment, on your computer.)
  2. From the sidebar, select the desired Contact.
  3. In the main body area of the Signalwindow, at the bottom in the Send A Message, enter a text message for your contact, then tap the Return The message is sent to your contact and received in seconds.

Secure Voice or Video Call with Signal

In this assignment, you make a secure, encrypted voice call to a Signal friend.

  1. Open Signal.
  2. Select a Signalcontact to call.
  3. In the top right corner of the Signalwindow tap either the phone or the video
  4. Tap the Start Call
  5. On your friends Signaldevice, they hear their device ringing, and an Incoming Call message in if they wish to answer, they tap the Signal Phone icon.
  6. The two of you can now speak in complete privacy (even better than Maxwell Smart’s Cone of Silence).