7 Essential Security Features for Messaging Apps to Gain User Trust
A successful messaging app relies on user trust in your security. Here are a few in-app features developers can implement to maximize trust and privacy.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Did you know most leading messaging apps don't include end-to-end encryption? You can use it to make your app stand out and build user trust. What other security tools and features should messaging apps include to maximize trust and privacy?
1. End-to-End Encryption
End-to-end encryption is a must-have security feature for any developer who wants to prioritize user trust. It's crucial to make encryption user-friendly, though.
Research shows that 78% of users want to ensure no one else reads their emails, but less than 40% are aware of email encryption options. Many people don't use encryption because navigating technologies like public and private keys is too complicated.
Developers must strike a balance. You have to include end-to-end encryption and encrypted backups to gain the trust of security-conscious users. However, you also ensure your encryption processes are user-friendly so they are accessible to everyone. For example, create a tutorial for users about how to set up and use public and private keys for end-to-end encryption.
It's also crucial for you to be clear about the level of encryption you offer. Many popular messaging apps advertise offering encryption but don't guarantee end-to-end encryption. For example, Discord messages only have basic security, not E2EE.
For many users, Discord's private voice channel options are sufficient. However, some users may require the maximum security possible to ensure their safety. So, you must be clear about what encryption levels you offer and how users can set up additional security on their messages.
2. Auto Deleting Messages
Snapchat might not be the first messaging app that comes to mind when you think of security, but it does have one great feature — disappearing messages. This is extremely useful if users want to have a private conversation no one can access afterward.
Any messaging app can include auto-deleting messages. You can decide whether you want to have it active by default. Either way, include an option to turn disappearing messages on or off in the settings. It's also a good idea to allow users to customize how long their messages are viewable before disappearing.
If you decide to include auto-deleting messages, ensure you don't keep copies of those messages saved on the company's servers or cloud. When the messages disappear on the user's end, they should disappear everywhere else, too.
3. Robust Security for Media and Transactions
Secure messaging apps can also be feature-rich. Today's users want to send a wide variety of media over their messaging apps. This includes everything from GIFs and videos to monetary transactions and calendar integration.
You can build user trust without excluding extra features. For instance, you can make two-factor authentication obligatory for any monetary transaction. Integrating transactions using a third-party tool like Venmo, Apple Pay, or Google Pay may be helpful. The established developers who built these tools already have them optimized for good security, and users are likely familiar with at least one of the three.
Ensure you include media like photos and videos in your encryption protocols. You should also apply any auto-deletion or disappearing message options to media. That means if a user sends a text and a photo simultaneously, both should disappear at the same time.
4. Offer Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is the new standard for login technology. Hundreds of popular websites, apps and services offer 2FA or MFA today, so users are likely already familiar with it.
Two-factor authentication can significantly improve login security without compromising user convenience. As a result, it's ideal for messaging apps. You can offer a variety of authentication methods, as well, such as biometrics or one-time codes.
If you're unsure how to implement 2FA, refer to the NIST's MFA guide for best practices, methodologies and resources.
5. Offer Identity Verification Keys
Public and private keys are a tricky topic for developers. While they’re highly secure, they’re not a user-friendly verification method — so many users won't use the key system. However, those that do will be very grateful it's an option.
If you want to prioritize user trust, include the option to use verification keys. It's a good idea to have a tutorial to help users set up their verification keys, which can improve adoption and accessibility.
6. Support Multiple Registration Methods
Many messaging apps require users to set up their account with a phone number. Unfortunately, this is a serious risk for some users. Some governments severely restrict and police communication, putting users in danger if they want to share information freely.
You can earn the trust of vulnerable users by allowing them to use different registration methods to join your messaging app. For example, you can allow email registration. Anonymized registration options help protect vulnerable users from facing harm while trying to communicate with others.
7. Disable Screenshots
Screenshots are detrimental to messaging security. It's a good idea to disable them by default to ensure maximum user trust. If you don't want to fully disable screenshots, consider creating automated notifications if a user does take a screenshot.
Snapchat is a perfect example. If either user in a chat takes a screenshot of texts, snaps, videos, stories, or any other content, the other person receives a notification.
Building Secure Messaging Apps
A successful app relies on strong user trust, especially messaging apps where users want to have private conversations. You can include several features in your app to maximize user trust, such as end-to-end encryption, disappearing messages, 2FA, and multiple registration methods.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.