End-to-end encryption for Google’s Messages app on Android is out of beta, meaning any messages you send are fully secure and there is no chance of interception by an unwanted third party—including Google itself. So if you have ever had that thought that you might be spied on, you can say goodbye to those thoughts now.
In November 2020, Google announced that it was adding end-to-end encryption to its next-gen SMS protocol known as RCS (Rich Communications Services), and opened a private beta to conduct tests. Now Google has finished the beta and is finally rolling support out to everyone.
If you use the Messages app, it’s a good idea to activate it. Here’s how.
How Does Encryption in Messages Work?
For those curious how this works, when you use the Messages app to send any text or form of media such as a picture or a file, encryption converts this data into scrambled text before sending it—rendering it unreadable.
The only way to decode the data is with a secret key. This key is a number generated on yours and your recipient’s phones, with a new one being created for each message. Once they are used to decrypt the message, they are deleted.
All of this ensures that strangers can’t intercept and read your messages, making them accessible only to your recipient. Unfortunately, the app’s encryption only works in one-on-one chats, so you will still have to wait for a while until encryption is implemented on group chats.
Enable End-to-End Encryption in Messages
To enable end-to-end encryption, both you and the person you’re messaging have to be using the Messages app. The second requirement is that messages have to be in the RCS state. This means that messages are sent using Wi-Fi or data rather than SMS or MMS. To do so, you must have chat features enabled.
To enable chat features, follow these steps:
- Open the Messages app.
- Tap the three-dot menu.
- Select Settings.
- Select Chat features.
- Tap Enable chat features.
You can tell you have chat features enabled by the color of your messages. Text messages are dark blue in the RCS state and light blue in the SMS/MMS state.
Messages’ end-to-end encryption will be automatically enabled if it’s eligible in your chat and you’ll get a banner that says “Chatting with [contact name or phone number]”.
To check whether it’s active, just have a look at the send button. If there’s a lock next to it, then your messages are safe and secure. A little lock will also appear next to the message’s timestamp and next to the banner telling you who you’re chatting with.
Each end-to-end encrypted conversation has a unique verification code and this code must be the same for both you and your contact. If you want to go through an extra step and verify that code, well you can.
To do so open a conversation in the Messages app and in the top right of the conversation window, select More options > Details > Verify encryption. Now all you have to do is call your contact and confirm they have the same code.
If either you or your recipient disables chat features then all locks will disappear so make sure to check for them before sending your next message.
Protect Yourself and Your Data
Security is the biggest concern in today’s world of technology. With more and more people falling victim to privacy leaks, it’s important to stay cautious and do all you can to protect yourself, and encrypting your messages isn’t a bad place to start.