Telegram User Starting an Encrypted Secret Chat
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

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.

Secret Chat Started on Telegram

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.

A notification that an image was taken of the encrypted chat

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.

RELATED: How to Send Disappearing Messages in WhatsApp

How to Start an Encrypted Secret Chat in Telegram

Now that you understand how the Secret Chat feature works, let’s see it in practice. The steps for iPhone and Android are the same, but the interface is different.

If you’re using an iPhone, tap the contact’s name from the top of a conversation to get started.

Select Profile on iPhone

Here, tap the “More” button.

Tap Mode button on Telegram Profile on iPhone

From the pop-up, select the “Start Secret Chat” option.

select the "Start Secret Chat" option

Select the “Start” button to confirm.

Tap Start from Popup on iPhone

If you’re using an Android smartphone, start by tapping your contact’s name from the top of the conversation.

Tap Contact Profile from Telegram Chat

Here, tap the three-dot menu button from the top-right corner of the screen.

Tap Menu Button from Telegram Profile

Now, select the “Start Secret Chat” option.

Tap Start Secret Chat on Android

From the pop-up, confirm by tapping the “Start” button.

Tap Start to Start Secret Chat on Telegram for Android

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.

A secret chat vs a not encrypted chat

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.

Tap Timer from Text Box on iPhone

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.

Select Timer and tap Done on iPhone

On your Android smartphone, tap the stopwatch icon from the top toolbar.

Tap Timer Button from Toolbar on Telegram on Android
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

Then, select the self-destruct timer and tap the “Done” button to set it.

Select Timer and tap Done on Android
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

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.

Swipe Left on Conversation in Telegram

From here, tap the “Delete” button.

Tap Delete from Conversation Options

From the pop-up, tap the “Delete Chat” button to confirm.

Tap Delete Chat from Popup

If you’re using an Android smartphone, open the Secret Chat and tap the three-dot menu icon from the top toolbar.

Tap Menu Button from Contact Toolbar on Android
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

Here, choose the “Delete Chat” button.

Tap Delete Chat on Android
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

From the pop-up, select the “Delete Chat” option.

Tap Delete Chat from Popup on Android
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

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.

If you want end-to-end encryption for all your chats and groups, Signal might be a good option for you. Here’s how Signal compares to Telegram when it comes to privacy and feature set.

RELATED: Signal vs. Telegram: Which Is the Best Chat App?

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Khamosh Pathak is a freelance technology writer who specializes in tutorials. His work has also been published on Lifehacker, iPhoneHacks, Zapier's blog, MakeUseOf, and Guiding Tech. Khamosh has nearly a decade of experience writing how-tos, features and technology guides on the internet.
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