Updated October 2020
If you’re doing business today, security should obviously be a top priority.
Chances are you’ve heard your fair share of horror stories when it comes to cybersecurity.
Data breaches. Hacks. Customer financial leaks. The list goes on and on.
Given that cyberattacks are up 67% within the past five years1, companies rightfully want to keep their sensitive information under lock and key.
To do that, one of the first things you need to do is make sure you’re using a secure messaging app.
As a company committed to privacy, we’ve seen firsthand what happens when businesses don’t take their communication security seriously.
And trust us: it isn’t pretty.
So, we put together this comprehensive list of secure messaging solutions to help you protect your company, customers, and precious data. We’ll go through features to look out for, the main differences between apps that are designed for businesses (compared apps designed to let you have an online game night with friends), and more.
Spoiler alert: Yep, we’re a little biased, but RingCentral’s desktop- and mobile-friendly app truly is one of the most secure and best all-around messaging apps out there. It’s designed specifically for business use—which as you’ll see later, should be a big requirement if you’re looking for an app for work—but… we’ll let you decide for yourself.
First, we’ll look at:
Then, we’ll dive into the most secure messaging apps for businesses:
And a few secure instant messaging apps that aren’t designed for business use (but are sometimes used by businesses):
But first, let’s learn a little more about secure messaging.
Why is secure messaging so important, though?
Fact: cyberattacks impact 43% of small businesses.2
And unfortunately, 60% of businesses that do endure a serious attack go under within six months.
We’re not trying to scare you, but rather emphasize that you can’t overlook security. Below are some key reasons why adopting a secure messenger is worth it.
You eliminate the most common opportunities for information theft
Information theft is one of the most common security issues plaguing businesses big and small.
From private customer data to company reports and beyond, discussing sensitive information via chat apps and team messengers is pretty common these days.
But without a secure messaging app, you could be potentially leaving that information out in the open. Imagine that all that’s standing between a hacker and your customers’ social security numbers is some intern’s flimsy Facebook password.
Not good, right? Confining your communication to a secure messaging app immediately makes it less likely for your company to leak data.
You give your coworkers and customers peace of mind
Your colleagues shouldn’t have to second-guess whether what they communicate to each other at work is safe or not.
Employees should be able to freely collaborate with fellow team members when discussing everyday matters like customer payment or login information. If not, they can’t do their jobs effectively.
Likewise, your own commitment to security serves to give your customers peace of mind. Much like you don’t want to worry about your private data being breached from a company you support, just know that they feel the same way.
You keep your business compliant with security regulations
Don’t forget about the regulatory risk of not keeping your company’s data secure. Recent reports show that nearly 90% of security leaders say they lack “adequate visibility” when it comes to business data that needs to be protected.3 Again, consolidating communication in a secure messaging app helps you keep track of this data.
You make it safer to collaborate with third parties and partners
Whether it’s a contractor or partner, collaborating with agencies and people beyond your in-house employees is just part of doing business today.
However, granting access to secure documents, passwords, and other sensitive information to these third parties can open you up to security issues.
That’s why you need a collaboration hub that not only keeps your communication in one place but also tracks document access and permissions. Plus, having all your docs and conversations within a secure messaging platform compared to say, email or social media, gives you a unified bird’s-eye view of all of your third-party communications. (Trust us, it makes life a lot easier, especially when you’re working with multiple vendors.)
It’s a low-effort way to make your employees more conscious of security concerns
The average employee has a lot on their plate. Security probably isn’t at the forefront of their minds, and understandably so.
But by adopting a secure messaging app, you’re making it clear that as a company, you’re not going to treat communication casually. You’re building that conscientiousness into your team’s systems and tools—and making security integral to your company culture.
Okay. There are tons of instant messaging tools out there.
However, comparing the security features built into messaging apps can sometimes be like comparing apples to oranges.
Think about it. Would you be willing to trust the likes of Facebook Messenger or even regular text messaging with sensitive customer data? Probably not.
That’s because private communication requires specific features. Even trusted, go-to communications platforms that you use every day to talk to friends and family face security concerns when it comes to privacy.4, 5 (Usually because they’re designed for consumer use, not business use.)
Without getting too technical, let’s look at some key features that separate the most secure messaging apps from more vulnerable solutions.
The concept of end-to-end encryption is simple: messages sent are encrypted from the time they leave your keyboard until the moment they’re seen by your recipient. In other words, no system can decrypt your data while it is in transit. This decreases the likelihood of any sort of third party accessing your messages.
An open-source platform
If a messaging platform is open source, you’re able to see exactly what’s “under the hood” when it comes to its code. Whereas a closed-source program means that you have to take the app at its word that nothing malicious is happening with your data, open-source code is, well, open. You can see the code.
This might not mean much to the average employee, but this sort of transparency is huge among app developers who want to provide users with peace of mind.
Designated user and admin controls
Keep in mind that not all security issues spur from malicious hackers hidden in a dark corner somewhere.
In fact, a lot of data theft and mismanagement happens internally.
For example, let’s say you have a disgruntled former employee that still has access to your company reporting information and chat channels years after they’ve been let go. Or perhaps your interns and entry-level employees have accidental access to your private, manager-only chat channels.
Any business messaging app worth using has detailed security controls in terms of who can and can’t access your app, specific channels, and so on. Also, many apps offer multi-factor authentication and additional measures to prevent unauthorized access.
Many mobile messaging apps include features that delete messages after a set period of time (a week, 48 hours, and so on). Although “self-destructing” messages might seem like a novelty, it does ensure that nobody accesses your private messages after the fact.
11 secure messaging apps to try for yourself
Now that you know what to look for, let’s talk about the apps themselves.
So, what is the most secure messaging app? The answer really depends on what your business needs. To help you hone down your choices, we’ve highlighted 11 secure messaging apps worth test-driving. The good news is that all of these apps are friendly for a small business budget (heck, some of them are free).
The most secure messaging apps for business
First, we’ll look at business-focused messengers that allow for seamless, secure internal communication.
1. RingCentral: Secure, integration-friendly team messaging app for businesses big and small
As we mentioned earlier, we’re seriously committed to security.
We think our satisfied customers speak for themselves, trusting RingCentral with everything from internal communication to sensitive sales calls with customers.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, you can read more about our data security practices, which are both FINRA and HITRUST-certified.
The key takeaway is that we’ve designed RingCentral specifically for business use, and have taken serious measures to protect our customer data and prevent fraud. With seven layers of security, the technology behind our messaging solution is top-notch:
Beyond the inner workings of the app, RingCentral is a business messaging app that puts your company in control. You can easily designate permissions and channels for messaging among your team—and even during video conferencing calls, the host has the ability to set passwords, mute attendees, and even lock attendees out if necessary.
Learn more about RingCentral’s top-notch video conferencing security.
But back to messaging. With RingCentral, you can provide private channels for individual departments (sales, marketing) or have designated channels for higher-level employees. You hold the reins in terms of who has access to your communication platform and what they’re capable of doing.
In addition to text-only messaging, RingCentral’s app also offers controls for your video meetings and calls. In other words, you don’t have to worry about getting “Zoom-bombed” or having your meeting IDs fall into the wrong hands:
Think of RingCentral as a sort of Swiss army knife when it comes to secure video conferencing and communication, and productivity. Thanks to its integrations with apps like Salesforce and Google Drive, you can seamlessly combine your business communication with tools that you already rely on. From file sharing to call tracking, RingCentral does it all in a secure environment without requiring you to bounce between tools.
🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:
2. Mattermost: Open-source team messaging with an emphasis on security
Mattermost is a team messaging and productivity app that has also hung their hat on their security features. Their solution looks similar to Slack at a glance, but is open-source and offers security-specific features including operation behind a firewall and TLS encryption:
The messaging-specific features of Mattermost are fairly standard. This includes channel messaging, voice and video chat, and file sharing. Making the most of Mattermost (ha) requires a larger tech-savvy team.
For example, their starting solution supports up to 500 users and is presented as being intended for enterprises rather than smaller companies. That said, smaller businesses could perhaps adopt the platform if they were willing to accept a steep learning curve.
3. Wire: Affordable messaging for smaller teams with security-specific features
Wire refers to themselves as the “most secure collaboration platform,” although they’re perhaps better known for their mobile app.
The platform is committed to never selling their customers’ data and is looking to attract teams that want to protect their documents and communication. Wire regularly publishes a transparency report as evidence of that commitment.
Furthermore, the fact that the platform is open source and offers end-to-end encryption across multiple devices is a huge plus for those concerned about security.
The ability to create self-destructing “guest rooms” is a particularly useful feature, allowing outsiders to temporarily engage with your business for the sake of a one-off meeting or interview. Additional features such as fingerprint-only access for individual messages are also notable.
4. Keybase: Free end-to-end encrypted messaging and file sharing
Keybase started as a secure messaging app that eventually evolved into a full-blown collaboration platform. The tool offers end-to-end encryption for both messaging and file sharing.
The platform’s interface is user-friendly for those new to collaboration software, while also offering surprisingly powerful features (such as personal message passwords, self-encryption, and decoding) for a free tool.
Although much of Keybase’s marketing highlights its functionalities for personal use (think: social clubs, group chats), its security features are nothing to scoff at for business users.
5. Highside: Team messaging for security-conscious organizations
If you’re concerned with security above all else, Highside has you covered.
The platform highlights features such as end-to-end encryption, closed-loop voice and video, and a variety of other security options that separate it from the likes of Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Multi-factor authentication and message achieving are also built into the platform.
Like Mattermost, taking advantage of Highside’s full suite of features requires a higher-level knowledge of security (for example, have you ever heard of a “high entropy token?”).
6. Flock: Team-messaging and collaboration with robust user permissions
Flock is a Slack alternative that includes features such as video calls and integrations with the likes of Twitter, Google Drive, and productivity tools such as Asana. Although the platform isn’t end-to-end encrypted or open source, Flock guarantees security through TLS 1.2 data encryption and AWS cloud security.
Where Flock shines is its admin controls and permissions. For example, admins can determine access to specific channels, invite outside guests, and create custom identity fields for users. You can get pretty granular in terms of individual permissions, including who can invite new users to Flock or even send certain types of messages or share files.
Other secure messaging instant messaging apps that you might have heard of but aren’t designed for business use
For the latter half of our list, we’ll look at five apps that are popular via mobile but may not be the best for businesses.
For example, these are messengers you might use for a group chat or work messaging doesn’t require your personal phone number. Many of these apps are free or cost a small, one-time fee. If you’re looking for a cheap way to get started with secure messaging, these apps can do the trick.
Signal is often regarded as the most secure encrypted messaging app full-stop, with millions of dedicated users and fans. Although it’s primarily known for encrypted text messaging and group chats, Signal is currently experimenting with expanding its video chat features.
Since the tool tracks none of your messaging and essentially can’t access your data, there are no real controls or features to consider: the platform is “set it and forget it” when it comes to security. If you’re interested in a secure private messenger to serve as an alternative to Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, look no further.
Popular among cryptocurrency enthusiasts, Wickr Me is yet another end-to-end encrypted, open-source platform. With every message encrypted with a new key, the platform notes that they never access your contact list or store your metadata on their servers.
The most notable features of Wickr Me are its ephemeral messages, including self-destruct timers and “Shredder” feature, which automatically overwrites your app data so it can never be accessed by third-party recovery tools.
Of course, while this is a very cool 007-worthy feature, it’s not the best tool for work. (What if you need to save past client conversations? What if you want to see what your teammate messaged you last week?)
Threema offers individual or group messaging for text and voice, although the app also has built-in file-sharing features.
The platform is unique in that each user is assigned an ID and, according to Threema themselves, not even the app itself is aware of “who’s who” in any given group chat. You can set specific permissions in terms of who can see your profile picture, nickname, and what information is publicly linked to your account.
Although Threema isn’t free, its low one-off price ($3) might actually give users some extra assurance if they don’t want to rely on a free app for private messaging.
10. Briar: Free, open-source mobile messaging that’s easy to use for Android
Looking for a simple, no-frills messenger that’s open source and won’t overwhelm you with features? Briar might be your pick.
With peer-to-peer encryption that doesn’t store your information in the cloud, Briar’s minimalist interface and lack of price tag is enticing for those totally new to secure messaging apps. While Briar doesn’t boast any groundbreaking features, its simplicity is part of its appeal. The only big downside of Briar is that the platform is Android only.
11. Viber: Free, secure calls and texts with a sense of personality
Viber is a free, end-to-end encrypted messenger that presents itself as a sort of privacy-friendly alternative to the likes of Facebook Messenger. The platform offers a plethora of stickers, GIFs, and emojis in addition to FaceTime-style video calls. Disappearing messages and offline mode provide users with an extra sense of privacy that you just can’t get with other social messengers.
Sure, Viber seems more intended for personal versus professional use. That said, it might serve as a less stuffy group chat app for teams looking to communicate privately.
Is your business using the most secure messaging app possible?
Listen: as companies become more and more dependent on digital communication, you need to ensure that your business’s messages are safe.
Getting your company on board with a secure messaging app should be a matter of “when,” not “if.”
And if you’re looking for a secure messaging solution that integrates with all the tools that your business already relies on, RingCentral has you covered.