Signal Encrypted Messenger on GNU/Linux
Privacy awareness has been thankfully growing steadily across the web, and a number of programs have arisen as a result; Signal, is one such program.
I wonâ€™t name drop, but enough major players in the world of privacy advocacy have given their seal of approval for Signal, and so I knew I had to check it out for myself.
Signal, is a program that ties into your phone number in a similar fashion to WhatsApp, and offers encrypted messaging between clients using their data / wifi rather than sms system, to allow for messaging worldwide. As well, video and audio chat options are available.
Signal is available for download from the main website, and is available for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and Linux.
I installed via the AUR for Antergos, other distributions may have their own packages in repos, and Debian based distributions can also install with the following instructions,
curl -s https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt/keys.asc | sudo apt-key add -
echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt xenial main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/signal-xenial.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install signal-desktop
Setting up and using Signal
The first screen youâ€™ll see when installing Signal, will ask if you wish to set up as a new install, or setup from exported data. Obviously, youâ€™ll want to choose the option most appropriate. In this case, select a new install.
Next, youâ€™ll be asked to install signal on your mobile device, verify your phone number, and scan a QR code. Once finshed, Signal will bring you to your main screen.
The application doesnâ€™t have a plethora of options to be had, you can change a few things like making the program appear more like android, android dark, or iOS, and a few other basic settings, but thatâ€™s it. If your friends have Signal, it likely will find them based on your phone contacts, but you also have the option to search for friends.
From my iPhone I was able to initiate video calls, but unfortunately I was not able from my Signal in my Antergos setup. Text messaging did work fine however.
However, Signal from Android also has the ability to send normal SMS messages when contacting a phone number that does not utilize Signal, just as iMessage does on iOS devices. However, iPhones and Desktop users do not have this option.
That said, I do love the continuity much like iMessage for Apple devices, how I can text someone else using Signal from my phone, and continue my conversation on my laptop later on, providing they are a Signal user too.
Signal does include a couple of features also worth noting however, such as the ability to set disappearing messages. This means that messages will automatically be deleted after X time, which can be determined by you.
Another feature, is the ability to verify your contacts. This can be done via QR code, or by comparing a series of numbers on the two phones, to confirm that the person you are talking to, is who you believe they are (or at least the correct device is being used.)
Overall, Signal for GNU/Linux is a great messenger application utilizing the industry standard AES-256, as well as HMAC-SHA256 and Curve25519. You can be fairly confident that your message will be encrypted well. The only real downside, is convincing your friends or family to use it.
What are your thoughts on Signal? Would you use it to replace things like Skype with your contacts?