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Security

Some Signal messages aren't disappearing, due to a bug, says a report

This message won't self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Encrypted-communications app Signal has a feature that lets you set messages to vaporize. But a report says it has issues.

Encrypted-communications app Signal has a feature that lets you set messages to vaporize. But a report says it has issues.

Jaap Arriens/Getty Images

Setting your messages to disappear on Signal is often an important tool for secure communications -- especially if you want to make sure no one sees what you're saying.

But a report by Motherboard found that some messages from the encrypted-communications platform are floating around long after they were scheduled to vanish.

Signal is a popular secure-messaging tool, used for encrypted communications so potential spies, government agencies and attackers have a much harder time reading your messages or intercepting your phone calls. You can set messages to disappear on Signal within a certain time period, which adds an extra layer of security for secret messages. 

Motherboard found that in several instances the setting malfunctioned, with messages lingering for weeks after they were set to disappear. One set of messages was still around more than two weeks after it was supposed to expire, Motherboard reported. In another case, Signal appeared to wipe only half the conversation.

Though many activists, security researchers and journalists rely on Signal for secure messaging, the tool has shown a few cracks in its armor in the past. In May, a security researcher discovered that though Signal's disappearing messages were deleted from the app, its Mac version still stored them in the MacOS Notification Center.

"This issue only affected a portion of disappearing messages that were sent within a very short timeframe before the Signal iOS release on May 22nd and hadn't yet disappeared," Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike said in an email Friday. "Ongoing messages are disappearing correctly, and there was an update today that automatically handles the cleanup of the subset of messages that were affected."

First published June 8, 12:59 p.m. PT
Update, June 9 at 12:14 p.m.: Adds comment from Marlinspike.

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