With many privacy concerns affecting formerly secure messaging apps like WhatsApp have prompted people to move to other methods of communication that remain more secure and out of reach to unwelcome oversight.
One of such methods is Signal, a simple, yet powerful communication app that is secure. It contains many helpful features to protect the privacy of conversations.
Aside from its security and ample features, it also has a simpler learning curve than many other messengers, including WhatsApp.
When using Signal, it is good to know about the features that can optimize the privacy of the app’s use. We’ve compiled a helpful list of the best Signal tips and tricks that will help you keep your chats safe and secure.
While Signal’s communication is end-to-end encrypted, you can add another layer of security by entering a pin, to encrypt certain information shared with your contacts.
When the communication data is uploaded to the app’s servers, it cannot be accessed by anyone who is not aware of the uniquely designated pin.
The feature is new and optional but is highly recommended for those looking for a boost in their communication security. The pin can be found in the Settings, under the Privacy section.
2. Enable Lock Screen
Also found in the Settings –> Privacy section is the ability to lock the screen with a built-in screen lock feature in the Signal app.
For another layer of security, you can use this feature to lock out anyone from accessing your android device without providing a pin, a password, or a fingerprint every time the device is attempted to be accessed.
A Screen lock inactivity timeout can also be set to lock the screen after a designated amount of time in which it is not used.
3. Disable “Contact Joined Signal” Notification
With so many people signing up for the signal app in lew of recent privacy concerns with other communication apps, there is a good chance that many of your contacts will soon be arriving.
By default, every time a contact joins Signal, the app will notify you of their arrival. It might be fun to know who joined, but frequent notifications can get annoying.
In the Settings –> Notifications sections you can therefore use the “Contact Joined Signal” setting to toggle these notifications off.
4. Custom Notification
Most chat apps display a notification when someone contacts you through the app. These notifications typically include who the contact is, as well as at least a portion of their message.
You may not wish for the message to be revealed in the notification. Signal’s ‘Show’ settings under the Notification section can customize the notifications to not just prevent the content of the message from displaying when the device is locked, but also when it’s unlocked.
This better assures the user that their message no other party can or has the ability to read their message threads.
5. Pin Chat to Top
When having multiple conversations through a chat application, some are always more relevant than others.
A user may want to prioritize certain chats by ranking them higher to the top of the chat conversation list.
This can be done on Signal with a helpful feature that allows for the pinning of up to four chat conversations on top of the Signal home screen.
It is also one of the easiest features to enable at will. You only need to hold the chat conversation tab down on the screen and tap the pin icon at the top menu.
6. Blur Faces
We share photos with our messaging contacts all the time. But sharing photos of other people or their kids is often frowned upon without the person’s consent.
For that reason, an option that allows blurring people’s faces in pictures is a useful feature to include in a messaging app that can transmit multimedia, and Signal has just that ability.
Using this app you can send pictures with all or some of the faces in the picture blurred. This can be done by selecting the photo in the multimedia library and selecting the Blur icon at the top. Then toggling the “Blur faces” feature, prompting Signal to automatically blur all of the pictures in the photo.
The pictures themselves can also be edited by manually drawing blurred elements over other areas besides the faces.
7. Disappearing Messages
There are certain messages that you may wish not to stick around. If they are short, it likely does not take more than a few seconds for the receiving party to read them.
A feature now being introduced to many apps, Signal already possesses the ability to purge the message after a specific time period.
Because this feature may only be desired to be the case of a particular conversation, the disappearing messages feature is set at the conversation level rather than for the full app.
In a conversation thread, you can activate this feature by setting it to an interval of anytime between 5 seconds and a week.
Just tap the triple-dot menu in the top right corner and set the adjustment for the desired time period in the “Disappearing Messages” menu option.
8. Block Screenshots
While messages can be set to disappear after a particular period of time as defined in the conversation settings, it may not stop the message to be captured or retained via screenshots.
For that reason, Signal has an additional privacy feature called “Screen Security” that can be located in the Settings –> Privacy menu.
By toggling the “Screen Security” feature on, you will be disabling the ability of anyone receiving messages from you from being able to screenshot the conversation.
9. Send View-once Images or Videos
Text messages are not the only things that can be set up to be expunged from the conversation. With Signal, images and videos sent via chats can be set up to allow the receiving party to only view the multimedia inclusion once.
As with messages, this feature is controlled in the conversation, but with an even deeper granularity that applies to the specific image or video.
To set up the one-time view feature, you simply need to open the relevant conversation, select the image or video you want to be added.
From the edit screen of this attachment you can click the infinity symbol on the bottom left to alter it to “1x”.
When the other party receives the message they will be informed that it is a one-time-only viewable attachment. Once it has been viewed, Signal will render it inaccessible.
10. Note to Self
Many users actually use messaging apps as a way to set notes and reminders for themselves. This is typically done by creating a group chat that only has one member, the sender themselves, and sending notes to themselves in that manner.
Signal makes the note-taking effort even more convenient with the “Note-to-Self” feature. It can just be set up once by taping the edit (pen) icon at the bottom and selecting the Note-to-Self option, adding whatever content you wish to it.
Moving forward, that will just be another conversation in the conversation list, allowing you to reference your handy note list at any time.
11. Verify Contacts
Many messaging apps, even the more secure ones, cannot prevent a conversation invader (sometimes known as a man-in-the-middle attack).
Signal adds another safeguard from such a conversation hijacking by allowing the users to verify their contacts. This assures you that you are sending the message you intend to send to the party you intend to send it to.
This can be done by opening the chat conversation and tapping on the user name of the party on the other end of the conversation, and scrolling down to the ‘view safety number’ option.
From here, the setting of “Verified” can be set to help the sender verify that the number in your conversation matches the one on their device.
12. Relay Calls
Signal allows calls to be made as well as messages with text and multimedia. This works like any other phone feature, but inherent in placing a call is the potential to reveal the unique IP address of your device.
If you wish for that not to be the case, you can select a privacy setting that enables the calls to be relayed.
This means that when you place a phone call, Signal servers will relay (reroute) your calls, and your device’s IP address will be kept secret. Keep in mind that this setting might reduce the quality of your call.
13. Create a Local Backup
For security purposes, Signal does not create a local or cloud copy of anything on the app. But the option to create a local copy does exist and can be turned on by accessing the settings’ “Chats and media” section and choosing “Chat backups,” then selecting to enable local backups from the subsequent popup.
It goes without saying that even when the local backup is stored, it will be encrypted with a passphrase (which sends are urged to keep written down for reference).
14. Delete Old Messages
Many old messages can clutter up the Signal conversation listing, especially for frequent users. However, Signal can be set up to auto maintain messages that could be crowding the screen and taking up room.
The activation and choice of how much to cut conversations by are as easy as one tap. If a chat exceeds, for example, 500 messages, the older ones can be set to automatically purge.
This can be activated from the settings page in the “Storage” section. Here the “Delete old messages” option can be turned on to clear the older messages and keep the interface from becoming overly cluttered.
15. Incognito Keyboard
Many modern messaging apps include smart suggestions based on smart machine learning of commonly typed terms, offering suggestions.
In order to make these suggestions, it needs to use a predictive algorithm, and the information fed to it comes from formerly typed messages.
This of course means that the typed content is retained somewhere. You can, however, put the typing keyboard into “Incognito” mode under the Settings –> Privacy menu settings by toggling on the Incognito keyboard feature.
When you type in the message you will see the incognito icon displayed above the keypad indicating that your typing history is not being retained and none of the typed content is being stored in the device’s dictionary.