Apple tops Google, Facebook on security scorecard

Looking to send a secure message?

For a mainstream option, go with Apple’s iMessage or FaceTime over Google or Facebook chat, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a new security scorecard for messaging technologies.

Still, the group cautioned that only specialty messaging apps CryptoCat and TextSecure can guarantee total privacy for users.

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“Many new tools claim to protect you, but don't include critical features like end-to-end encryption or secure deletion,” said EFF Technology Projects Director Peter Eckersley.

A key difference between Apple and Facebook and Google was end-to-end encryption. While all three encrypt messages in transit, only Apple’s communications are encrypted so the provider can’t read the message. 

Apple also secures past messages, meaning even if the encryption key is ever discovered, it cannot be used to decrypt stored messages.

However, the EFF was quick to point out Apple’s email products don’t have a similar end-to-end encryption.

“We're focused on improving the tools that everyday users need to communicate with friends, family members, and colleagues,” said EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo.

Facebook, Google and Apple also got points for auditing their code. Apple’s iMessage got extra points for having its security design “properly documented,” further separating it from Facebook and Google.

Some notably insecure popular messaging apps included AIM and SnapChat. SnapChat faced government action earlier this year over its failure to live up to its claim users’ messages “disappear forever.”

WhatsApp scored on par with Facebook and Google.

The FBI has expressed concerns over the heightened encryption companies like Apple and Google are rolling out, arguing the security measures could impede criminal investigations.

The EFF said civil liberties should come first.

“We hope the secure messaging scorecard will start a race-to-the-top, spurring innovation in stronger and more usable cryptography,” Cardozo said.