Unlike Signal, Telegram chats aren’t end-to-end encrypted. You only get server-side encryption by default. But if you want full encryption, you need to enter a separate Secret Chat mode. Here’s how to start an encrypted Secret Chat in Telegram.
What Is Secret Chat in Telegram?
When it comes to security and privacy, Telegram is much better than popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Telegram is open-source, and all of its code is available online for verification by security experts.
But by default, Telegram only offers server-side encryption. Telegram syncs your data (messages, media, and groups) between all your devices and uploads it to its servers by default. All the data in Telegram’s server is encrypted. This means that you are safe from your internet service provider, Wi-Fi router interception, and other third parties.
But Telegram itself might still be able to access your data (if they really wanted to). According to Telegram, its encryption method is the best compromise for features and security. Your large groups, channels, and media are all backed up and instantly available on all your devices, and they’re encrypted in the cloud. If you trust Telegram to protect your data, you don’t need to worry.
On the other hand, if you want end-to-end encryption where no one (including Telegram) can access your data, you need to enter a separate mode called Secret Chat.
Secret Chat mode only works for one-on-one conversations and not for groups (of any size). Once you enter Secret Chat mode, Telegram enables end-to-end encryption. This means that only you and the recipient can read the messages, as they are only stored on your devices and not on Telegram’s servers. No one else can access or decipher the messages, including Telegram.
Messages in Secret Chat can’t be forwarded, and if you take a screenshot, the recipient is notified about it. When you delete a message, it’s deleted for both users.
Because Secret Chat messages are device-specific, they are only available on the device you start the chat with. If you log out of the current device, you will lose out on the Secret Chat, too. And once you delete the conversation, all the messages from the conversation will disappear as well.
Once the Secret Chat begins, you can chat like you always do. Optionally, you can enable a self-destruct timer (like Instagram or WhatsApp), where all messages will disappear after a set time once the message has been displayed on the recipient’s screen.
How to Start an Encrypted Secret Chat in Telegram
If you’re using an iPhone, tap the contact’s name from the top of a conversation to get started.
Here, tap the “More” button.
From the pop-up, select the “Start Secret Chat” option.
Select the “Start” button to confirm.
If you’re using an Android smartphone, start by tapping your contact’s name from the top of the conversation.
Here, tap the three-dot menu button from the top-right corner of the screen.
Now, select the “Start Secret Chat” option.
From the pop-up, confirm by tapping the “Start” button.
You have now entered the Secret Chat mode. Secret Chat conversations show up separately in Telegram’s chat list, and you can identify Secret Chats using the lock icon next to the user’s name.
You can now send messages in the chat as you wish.
How to Enable Self-Destruct Mode in Secret Chat in Telegram
To make your communication even more secure, you can enable a self-destruct feature. Once it’s turned on, all the exchanges going forward will automatically disappear after the set time (once they have been displayed on the recipient’s screen).
On your iPhone, tap the stopwatch icon from the text box.
Then, select the self-destruct timer that you want to set. You can set it to one second all the way to one week. Tap “Done” after selecting your timer.
On your Android smartphone, tap the stopwatch icon from the top toolbar.
Then, select the self-destruct timer and tap the “Done” button to set it.
To disable the timer, tap the stopwatch icon again, choose the “Off” button, and tap the “Done” button.
How to Exit Secret Mode in Telegram
As we mentioned above, you can carry on two different conversations with the same person on Telegram. One in the default mode and another in the Secret Chat mode.
But if you are done with a conversation and you want to delete all of the data and close the Secret Chat, you might be stumped looking for an Exit or Close button. The only way to exit Secret Chat is to actually delete the conversation.
To do this on your iPhone, go to the conversations view in Telegram and swipe left on the conversation.
From here, tap the “Delete” button.
From the pop-up, tap the “Delete Chat” button to confirm.
If you’re using an Android smartphone, open the Secret Chat and tap the three-dot menu icon from the top toolbar.
Here, choose the “Delete Chat” button.
From the pop-up, select the “Delete Chat” option.
The Secret Chat conversation will now be deleted from your device. If you want to send end-to-end encrypted messages again, you’ll have to start the Secret Chat again.