Home / Mobile / Every secure messaging app needs a self-destruct button

Every secure messaging app needs a self-destruct button


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Signal, left, lets you get on with it. You’ll need to enter your number in WhatsApp (right) and Telegram.n

Obviously it’s also important that these apps don’t let users accidentally and irreversibly delete their account. But perhaps there’s a middle road whereby you can temporarily lock it for a preset time period, after which it deletes itself if not unlocked manually. Telegram does have self-destructing accounts, but the shortest time you can delete after is a month.n

What really needs improvement is emergency deletion when your phone is no longer in your control. This could be a case of device seizure by police, or perhaps being forced to unlock the phone after you have been arrested. Whatever the case, there need to be options for a user to delete their account outside the ordinary means.n

Here are a couple options that could work:n

    n

  • Trusted remote deletion: Selected contacts are given the ability via a one-time code or other method to wipe each other’s accounts or chats remotely, no questions asked and no notification created. This would let, for instance, a friend who knows you’ve been arrested remotely remove any sensitive data from your device.n
  • Self-destruct timer: Like Telegram’s feature, but better. If you’re going to a protest, or have been “randomly” selected for additional screening or questioning, you can just tell the app to delete itself after a certain duration (as little as a minute perhaps) or at a certain time of the day. Deactivate any time you like, or stall for the five required minutes for it to trigger.n
  • Poison PIN: In addition to a normal unlock PIN, users can set a poison PIN that when entered has a variety of user-selectable effects. Delete certain apps, clear contacts, send prewritten messages, unlock or temporarily hard-lock the device, etc.n
  • Customizable panic button: Apple’s emergency mode is great, but it would be nice to be able to attach conditions like the poison PIN’s. Sometimes all someone can do is smash that button.nn

    Obviously these open new avenues for calamity and abuse as well, which is why they will need to be explained carefully and perhaps initially hidden in “advanced options” and the like. But overall I think we’ll be safer with them available.n

    Eventually these roles may be filled by dedicated apps or by the developers of the operating systems on which they run, but it makes sense for the most security-forward app class out there to be the first in the field.n”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:”rendered”:”

    The growing presence of encrypted communications apps makes a lot of communities safer and stronger. But the possibility of physical device seizure and government coercion is growing as well, which is why every such app should have some kind of self-destruct mode to protect its user and their contacts.n”,”protected”:false,”author”:12084691,”featured_media”:1842318,”comment_status”:”open”,”ping_status”:”closed”,”sticky”:false,”template”:””,”format”:”standard”,”meta”:”outcome”:””,”status”:””,”crunchbase_tag”:0,”amp_status”:””,”relegenceEntities”:[],”relegenceSubjects”:[],”jetpack_publicize_message”:”Every secure messaging app needs a self-destruct button https://tcrn.ch/2ZnkqpW”,”categories”:[449557102,15986864,449557028,426637499,21587494,17396],”tags”:[6474,446778758,12503215,147292,430390,25699058],”crunchbase_tag”:[],”tc_stories_tax”:[],”tc_event”:[],”jetpack_featured_media_url”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/GettyImages-phone-cuffs.jpg”,”jetpack_publicize_connections”:[],”shortlink”:”https://tcrn.ch/2ZnkqpW”,”rapidData”:”pt”:””,”pct”:””,”featured”:false,”subtitle”:””,”fundingRound”:false,”seoTitle”:””,”seoDescription”:””,”premiumContent”:false,”premiumCutoffPercent”:1,”tc_cb_mapping”:[“slug”:”signal”,”cb_name”:”Signal”,”cb_slug”:”signal-organization”,”cb_link”:”https://crunchbase.com/organization/signal”,”slug”:”telegram”,”cb_name”:”Telegram”,”cb_slug”:”telegram-organization”,”cb_link”:”https://crunchbase.com/organization/telegram”,”slug”:”whatsapp”,”cb_name”:”WhatsApp”,”cb_slug”:”whatsapp-organization”,”cb_link”:”https://crunchbase.com/organization/whatsapp”],”associatedEvent”:null,”event”:null,”authors”:[12084691],”hideFeaturedImage”:false,”relatedArticles”:[],”_links”:”self”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1842125″],”collection”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts”],”about”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/types/post”],”version-history”:[“count”:9,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1842125/revisions”],”predecessor-version”:[“id”:1843305,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1842125/revisions/1843305″],”authors”:[“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/12084691″],”replies”:[“embeddable”:true,”count”:0,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/comments?post=1842125&order=asc&tc_hierarchical=flat”],”https://techcrunch.com/edit”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1842125&action=edit”],”author”:[“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/12084691″],”wp:featuredmedia”:[“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/media/1842318″],”wp:attachment”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/media?parent=1842125″],”wp:term”:[“taxonomy”:”category”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/categories?post=1842125″,”taxonomy”:”post_tag”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tags?post=1842125″,”taxonomy”:”_tc_cb_tag_taxonomy”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/crunchbase_tag?post=1842125″,”taxonomy”:”tc_stories_tax”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_stories_tax?post=1842125″,”taxonomy”:”tc_event”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_event?post=1842125″],”curies”:[“name”:”wp”,”href”:”https://api.w.org/rel”,”templated”:true],”_embedded”:{“authors”:[“id”:12084691,”name”:”Devin Coldewey”,”url”:””,”description”:””,”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/author/devin-coldewey/”,”slug”:”devin-coldewey”,”avatar_urls”:”24″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/69fae9a8a3933fa91e81c086b8eee14a?s=24&d=identicon&r=g”,”48″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/69fae9a8a3933fa91e81c086b8eee14a?s=48&d=identicon&r=g”,”96″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/69fae9a8a3933fa91e81c086b8eee14a?s=96&d=identicon&r=g”,”links”:”homepage”:”http://techcrunch.com/author/tcdevin”,”twitter”:”http://twitter.com/techcrunch”,”linkedin”:”http://www.linkedin.com/company/techcrunch”,”crunchbase”:”https://www.crunchbase.com/person/devin-coldewey”,”position”:”Writer & Photographer”,”cbDescription”:”

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I'm a 50 year old PLC programmer from Burnley, UK. I severed my time as an electrician in the baking industry and soon got involved with the up and coming technology of PLC's. Initially this was all based in the Uk but as the years went by I have gradually worked my way around the globe. At first it was mainly Mitsubishi with a bit of Modicon thrown in but these days the industry leaders seem to be the Allen Bradley range of PLC and HMI’s.

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