Have you ever used Telegram secret chat feature? Ever wondered how using a secret chat could vastly improve your security? Have you ever concerned about the security of your messages sent online? Then this article is for you. Here, I’ll explain, in non-technical terms, all you need to know about Telegram secret chat: what it is, how it works, how to use it, its features, and its limitations.
What is Telegram?
Telegram is a messaging service, similar to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Snapchat. It is a fairly recent entry. It currently has more than 500 million active users worldwide. Using it, you can send not only messages but also photos, videos, and files of any type. One of its important features is the ability to create a chat group for up to 200,000 people. In addition, you can create channels for an unlimited number of audiences. You can also search your contacts by their phone number or their user name. It also supports end-to-end encrypted voice and video calls. Moreover, you can have group voice chats for thousands of participants.
How does normal Telegram chat works
Normal messages in Telegram are not end-to-end encrypted. Your message is still encrypted using industry-standard encryption methods. However, the encryption is between your device and the Telegram server. Your encrypted message first arrives at the server where it is decrypted and stored. It is then encrypted again to be sent out to your intended recipient. This is similar to how other messengers work. Therefore, it is still theoretically possible for someone at the server to read your messages.
If you are really concerned about the security of your messages, then you will be happy to know that Telegram has a secret chat feature where all messages are end-to-end encrypted.
How does secret chat in Telegram works
In contrast to normal chats, the secret chat is end-to-end encrypted. Your message is encrypted on your device and then sent directly to the recipient without deciphering at the server. Only your recipient can decrypt and read your message on his or her device.
Secret chats are device-specific. The chat is not between two accounts, but between the two devices. If you install Telegram on two devices using the same account (for example, on your iPhone and your iPad), only the device you are using for secret chat will see the messages. Other devices using the same account will only see normal chat messages.
What are the features of the secret chat?
Below are the features of the Telegram secret chat:
- End-to-end encrypted between devices. Only the two devices involved in the chat will see the messages.
- It leaves no trace on the Telegram server. The messages are sent directly to the recipient.
- You can enable self destruct timer. Self destruct timer is not enabled by default, but you can easily enable it and set the self-destruct time.
- Your recipient cannot forward the messages you sent to him.
- If either you or the other party takes a screenshot or screen record, it will warn both of you.
- When you delete a message, it is also deleted on the other device.
- Self-destruct messages or deleted messages leave no trace on either device. No one will know you have deleted a message.
- You can open more than one secret chat room with the same person. The messages sent in one room will not appear in another room.
- If you delete the chat, all secret messages will disappear. They also disappear if you log out of Telegram on your device.
How do you start one?
How to start a Telegram secret chat
- Select the contact you want to start secret chat with
In Telegram’s Contacts, tap the person you want to start the chat. This will open the normal chat screen.
- Go to your contact’s profile
To go to profile, tap the profile photo at the top right corner of the screen. The place of the profile photo in the chat window might be different depending on the Telegram version and the device.
- Start the Telegram secret chat
Tap the three dots under the profile picture. This will open the dialog box with options. Choose Start Secret Chat.
In the pop-up confirmation window, tap Start.
- Start chatting!
You are now in the secret chat. You will be shown a dialog box informing you of the features of the secret.
Note the self-destruct timer icon in the message box. Self-destruct message is disabled by default. You’ll need to enable it if you want your messages to disappear after a certain time limit.
- Set the self-destruct message timer (optional)
Tap the self-destruct message icon (clock icon in the message box). This will bring up the self-destruct time selection menu. Default is OFF. You can set the time from 1 second to 1 week. The messages will disappear on both devices without a trace.
- Every action is reported (sort of)
Actions such as taking screenshots or screen records, and setting self-destruct timers to on/off are reported in the chat to both parties.
If you delete a message, it will be deleted on both devices. No trace is left on either device.
Note: self-destruct timer starts only after the receiver has read the message.
Frequently asked questions about Telegram Secret Chat
Yes, you can. You can send photos, videos and other files such as Microsoft word and PDF documents.
Although secret chat will report actions such as taking screen shot to the other person, downloading files sent in secret chat are not reported.
If you (or your partner) have activated the self-destruct timer, everything you sent, including images, videos and files will self-destruct at the end of the timer.
You cannot see the preview of photos or videos while the self-destruct mode is on. You have to tap to see the photo or video. The self-destruct timer starts counting the moment you tap on the picture/video.
You cannot download photos and videos while self destruct timer is active. You can still take screen shot but your action will be reported in the chatroom.
However, you can download documents such as PDF or word files. This action is not reported.
As I have mentioned above, the end-to-end encryption in secret chat is between the two devices. It is not between the two accounts. Therefore, your messages will not appear on the other device if you are the one started the chat. However, if the other party started the secret chat, then it seems the device that accept the secret chat first will see the messages, while the chat was cancelled on the other device. Therefore, it is better to terminate the sessions on your stolen device to ensure private messages do not end up in the wrong hand.
When you start a secret chat session, you send out an invitation to all the devices logged in with the same Telegram account. This creates a security weakness. If you are the one initiating the session with contact with Telegram on more than one device, the invitation will be sent to all active devices. Any device that first accepts the invitation will be the one that connects to you. All other invitations are automatically canceled. Therefore, if the unintended party has got hold of one of the devices with Telegram on it, then they can accept the secret chat and can pretend to be your contact. To prevent this, both parties should establish some form of a protocol to establish their identities at the beginning of the secret chat session.