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Encrypted collaboration toolsSecurity and privacy have become necessities when collaborating online. What are the best encrypted collaboration tools?
In this blog, we’ll review the best and most popular secure collaboration products that support different levels of encryption, from end-to-end encrypted collaboration platforms and messaging apps, to more sophisticated team workspaces and communication products. This blog starts with the most popular end-to-end encrypted and open-source messaging apps, such as Signal, Telegram, WhatsApp, and Session. For many individuals, our most sensitive information is stored inside these products.From there, we’ll cover popular workspace products, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, and analyze whether they meet today’s cybersecurity needs. Finally, we’ll conclude by analyzing file storage and video conferencing products, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Zoom, and other video communication apps.
End-to-end encrypted messaging apps for workWhen it comes to messaging apps, there are a lot of different options to choose from. Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp are three of the most popular messaging apps available. So, which one is the best? To start, all three of these messaging apps are very similar. They all allow you to send messages, make calls, and share files. They also all have end-to-end encryption (although Telegram does not enable it by default in all chats), which means that your messages are private only to you.However, there are some differences between these messaging apps. Generally, Signal is the most private and well trusted of your messaging app options. Telegram is a bit less private than Signal. It is not open source, so you have to trust that the company has not put any backdoors into the app.Signal is the best choice for those who value privacy above all else. It uses end-to-end encryption by default, meaning that your messages are only accessible to you and the person you're messaging. Signal is also completely open source, which means that anyone can audit the code to make sure that there are no security issues. Signal is also backed by the non-profit organization Open Whisper Systems.Telegram also offers end-to-end encryption, but it's not enabled by default. Telegram is the best choice for those who want more functionality built into a messaging app. It offers a desktop app, group chats, voice and video calls (which Signal, WhatsApp, and Session offer) - as well as some integrations that can be useful for larger organizations. For example, Telegram allows you to create groups with up to 200 people. You can also set up bots to do things like send you weather updates or news headlines. WhatsApp is the least private of the three messaging apps. It isWhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, but it shares some data with Facebook and its parent organization Meta. WhatsApp also offers some of these features, but it doesn't have a desktop app. WhatsApp is the best choice for those who want a simple, popular messaging app. It's easy to use and it integrates with your phone's existing contacts.Session is an end-to-end encrypted messaging product built on the Session Protocol. Session offers many of the strict privacy features that are available on Signal, such as extremely limited metadata collection and sharing. Similar to WhatsApp and Signal, Session now offers video chat and voice calls.So, which messaging app is the best? It depends on your priorities. If privacy is your top concern, go with Signal. If you want the convenience features mentioned above, such as bot messaging and numerous customization options, you may want to go with Telegram. If you just want a simple, popular app, go with WhatsApp.
Slack, Teams, and what else?Slack and Microsoft teams are incredibly popular saas products, with hundreds of millions of users and many of the world’s biggest companies as customers. However, both products have lagged in privacy protections and encryption - and neither product supports end-to-end encryption out of the box.Slack is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services, founded in 2014. Slack offers many features, including real-time messaging, archiving, and to-do lists. It integrates with a variety of third-party services and supports team chat rooms, private groups, and direct messaging.Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based team collaboration platform that was announced in 2016. It is a part of the Office 365 suite of productivity tools and services. Teams offers features similar to Slack, including real-time messaging, file sharing, and integration with third-party services. It also supports team chat rooms, private groups, and direct messaging.Mattermost is a popular, security-focused, and open-source collaboration product. It is frequently self hosted or deployed on-premise by organizations, allowing each customer to set their own security posture and configure settings such as SSO and data retention policies.Wire offers an end-to-end encrypted team collaboration environment similar to Slack. Unlike Mattermost, Wire is self-hosted, enabling individuals to easily onboard and share workspaces with collaborators. Wire also offers products for enterprise and government use and is open-source.Keybase is another popular product for team collaboration that does support end-to-end encryption out of the box. Notably, the company was purchased by Zoom.
The most secure file storage productsWe’ll start by comparing the three major providers - Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive. All three services offer a similar basic set of features, allowing users to store and sync their files online for easy access from anywhere. However, we’ll then add two end-to-end encrypted providers that yield a similar level of usability with significantly better security and privacy.OneDrive is a cloud storage service from Microsoft that comes bundled with Windows 10. If you have a Microsoft account, you get 5GB of storage for free with OneDrive. OneDrive integrates tightly with Windows, making it a good choice if you're using Microsoft Office or other Microsoft products. OneDrive also offers some features that are unique among the three services, such as the ability to backup your entire PC to the cloud.Dropbox is one of the oldest and most popular cloud storage services. It offers a generous 2GB of storage for free, with paid plans starting at $9.99/month for 1TB of storage. Dropbox has a well-deserved reputation for being reliable and easy to use. It also integrates with a wide variety of apps and services, making it a good choice if you need to share files with others.Google Drive is a cloud storage service from Google. It offers 15GB of storage for free, with paid plans starting at $1.99/month for 100GB. Google Drive integrates with a variety of Google services, making it a good choice if you're already using other Google products. Google Drive also offers some unique features, such as the ability to create and edit Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides directly from the web interface.Skiff is a similarly consumer and business friendly product for end-to-end encrypted file storage, real-time collaboration, and secure collaboration. End-to-end encryption guarantees that only you - and never the technology provider - has access to your data. Skiff also offers additional security features, including password protected documents and multi-factor authentication, as well as 10 GB storage free for all users.Tresorit is another end-to-end encrypted cloud storage provider that offers mobile and desktop sync as well. Tresorit has begun to branch out and offer products in other areas of collaboration, such as digital signatures. For users looking for a replacement to a Dropbox style product without some of the needs for real-time collaboration or email, Tresorit could be an effective option. Both Skiff and Tresorit offer clients for iOS, Android, and more platforms.When considering encrypted collaboration tools, end-to-end encryption, or zero trust encryption, is an absolute necessity as it protects your personal or professional information in the event of a data breach. As a result, we highly recommend using Skiff, Tresorit, or other products listed on our end-to-end encrypted cloud storage provider comparison.
Encrypted video conferencing appsZoom has boasted having hundreds of millions of users on its videoconferencing products accumulating trillions of minutes of meetings. Yet, as Zoom surged to popularity as a staple of remote work, it also faced numerous security and privacy scandals, from misleading users into thinking the software was “encrypted” to routing free calls through data centers in China, which could have led to unintended data collection.Other convenient products for video communication include Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, which provide a similar level of compatibility, web access, screen sharing, and more. However, these products also lack end-to-end encryption, except Microsoft Teams when properly configured.However, many popular video conferencing products now offer E2EE out of the box. What products provide greater data security while allowing team members to communicate effectively?Signal, Session, and WhatsApp: For a free, simple, and universal alternative, you may consider turning to many of the messaging products listed above, which now offer video calling with end-to-end encryption. For example, Signal’s video calling feature is now available on both desktop and mobile apps, allowing participants to communicate while knowing that no sensitive data, including metadata, will be collected.FaceTime: Yes - Apple’s FaceTime communication product used by millions of people around the world is end-to-end encrypted. It thus represents a viable alternative to using Signal or other trusted messaging apps for video communciation.Wire: Wire is privacy and security focused collaboration platform similar to Slack that also offers a full video conferencing product. Given that it provides fully end-to-end encrypted calls that are integrated in a team workspace, it is a convenient product for teams that may be looking for a more secure collaboration tool as well as a video conferencing solution.Brave Talk is a video communication product offered by Brave. The platform, which currently only allows joining calls on Brave Browser, is based on an open-source product called Jitsi, and provides encryption in transit using TLS and AES-256 but does not support end-to-end encryption. As a result, although Brave Talk may limit metadata collection, truly security minded users will want to stick with a fully end-to-end encrypted product.
ConclusionChoosing a collaboration product for video conferences, team communication, and file sharing is a critical security decision for any team. Given that, it is critical that decision makers investigate alternatives, including the security-focused, end-to-end encrypted products described above.Generally, organizational security is simpler when the right decisions are made from the beginning. For example, instead of onboarding an organization onto the Google or Microsoft ecosystems, one may consider using a full secure collaboration platform to start. For example, Skiff offers end-to-end encrypted email, collaboration, and workspace products. Secure collaboration tools are here to stay - and only getting more sophisticated and capable.If you’re also looking for an end-to-end encrypted notes product, you may consider reviewing our comparison; or, if you’re looking for a new, privacy-focused web browser for your personal or professional use, we wrote up a comparison of many popular choices.
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