Texting for quick conversations with friends, coordinating plans, and even sensitive discussions many people don’t realize that standard SMS text messages lack sophisticated encryption and be vulnerable to interception by hackers.  Protecting your private text conversations is crucial for maintaining your privacy and security.

Turn on disappearing messages

Most encrypted messaging apps give users the option to enable disappearing messages. This means that after a set time period, messages are automatically deleted from the sender and recipient’s devices.  Activating disappearing messages prevents your messages from being accessible long after you’ve sent them. It also reduces the data footprint of your conversation, making it harder for a hacker to reconstruct message history.  On WhatsApp, open the chat, tap the contact’s name, select Disappearing Messages, and choose the self-destruct duration. Signal and Telegram also have similar options to enable disappearing messages in your chats.

Use screen locks on your phone

Setting up strong screen lock protection is another key step for secure text messages. Screen locks make it harder for intruders to physically access your phone and read through your private conversations.  Here are some recommended methods for locking your phone screen:

  1. PIN Code – Set a 4 to 6 digit numeric code to unlock your phone. Avoid obvious number patterns.
  2. Password – Use a strong alphanumeric password with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  3. Fingerprint – Enable fingerprint authentication, so only your fingerprint unlock the device.
  4. Facial Recognition – Use advanced facial recognition software to unlock your phone by scanning your face.

Enable remote wiping

  1. Remote wiping is a security feature that allows you to erase all data on your phone if it gets lost or stolen. Remote wipe capabilities are built into most major smartphone platforms.
  2. For iPhone users, simply log into iCloud.com and click Find My > All Devices > your phone > Erase Device to initiate a remote wipe.
  3. Android users access Find My Device at android.com/find to remotely factory reset their stolen phones. Having remote wiping set up gives you peace of mind that your texts be accessed if your phone falls into the wrong hands.

Back up messages securely

While disappearing messages provide greater privacy in the moment, you may still want to keep long term records of certain important conversations. Backing up your text messages allows you to store them externally in case you ever need to access them again. When backing up SMS messages, encryption is key for keeping your data secure:

  1. Use encrypted iPhone backups to iCloud or iTunes.
  2. Encrypt Android backups through privacy focused apps like SMS Backup & Restore Pro.
  3. Store encrypted backup files in a password protected archive on an external hard drive or cloud storage.

With encrypted backups, you retain message history without introducing new privacy risks.

Beware SMS phishing scams

Hackers are constantly developing new tactics to illegally access private data. One emerging threat is SMS phishing, also known as SMShing. SMShing attacks use text messages posing as legitimate notifications from banks, e-commerce sites, delivery companies and more to trick users into clicking malicious links or sharing passwords and financial information.