Do this: Right now, take out your smartphone (presuming you use one that runs iOS or Android.) Go to your app store of choice (or just follow this link) and install an app called Signal. It’s free. It costs you nothing. But one day, it may help you in ways you cannot yet foresee.
Signal is a privacy and security app that replaces your built-in SMS/text message software. It seamlessly handles your text messages for you, just like you’re used to now. But as an added bonus, it automatically encrypts texts that you send to other Signal users. The software uses end-to-end encryption to ensure nobody can eavesdrop on your texts. That includes the people who make the software, the NSA, the FBI, the phone company, your tricky hacker kids, the people sniffing your wi-fi at the Starbucks, and everyone else in the world. It means you can rest assured your private communications STAY PRIVATE.
In addition to encrypted texts, you can also use Signal to make encrypted phone calls, video calls, and picture messages. It’s open-source, so it’s been peer-reviewed by the cybersecurity community. It’s dead simple; easy enough that anyone can use it effectively. And did I mention that it’s free?
Look, it’s 2017. Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated as President of the United States on Friday, at which point, the controls of the most sophisticated surveillance apparatus in the entirety of human history will be at the disposal of a thin-skinned, sociopathic demagogue. 18 months from now, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you you’re asking, “Why didn’t I think of encrypting my communications sooner?” And even if you’re a straight shooter who never does a single thing wrong, and never wants to privately express controversial opinions, you should still use Signal to secure your communications. What if you are, or know, a journalist, an activist, or a protester who fears being targeted for retribution or censorship? What if you need to pass sensitive financial information to your accountant, or your lawyer, or your family? Are you going to PGP-encrypt your emails? If you’re like most people the answer is no; PGP-encrypted emails still frustrate even sophisticated techies. Don’t make it hard on yourself, when Signal is so easy to use.
Edward Snowden recommends using Signal, and he’s the kind of guy who has to worry about assassination attempts by state-level adversaries. World-renowned security researcher Bruce Schneier recommends it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends it. I recommend it. It costs you nothing, and it could one day protect you from fraud, scams, and theft. It may one day save your life or the life of someone you care about. Go install it now. Seriously.