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Encrypted Chat 2018

Posted 1 Jan 2018 | No Comments | 227 views

Encrypted messaging apps are going to be a hot topic for 2018. With so many reports of snooping and spying in the news, many people are trying to protect themselves from hacker eavesdropping, corporate espionage, and authoritarian governments. The market for encrypted communications is growing rapidly. App makers are moving beyond simple instant messaging to voice and video calling. Encrypted communications are no longer the realm of the technically inclined. They are easier to use than ever. What are the options?

Signal: Signal’s end-to-end encryption protocol has gone through several iterations over the years. End-to-end encryption means that even Signal can’t read the messages. The protocol has been audited multiple times by university security researchers and is considered secure. Signal has a very simple privacy policy, and they store minimal user information. While Signal is primarily focused on mobile devices, it is possible to link desktop clients to a mobile identity.
Pros: Open source under GPLv3
Cons: Small, but growing user base. Requires sharing your phone number.

WhatsApp: Facebook’s WhatsApp switched to the Signal protocol in April 2015 and now offers end-to-end encryption. Just as nearly everyone is on Facebook, there are nearly one billion WhatsApp users. Primarily focused on mobile users, WhatsApp is very popular in India, Mexico, and South America.
Pros: Large user base.
Cons: Data shared with parent Facebook. Requires sharing your phone number.

Wire: Wire is being positioned as the modern alternative for Skype. This app will appeal to businesses that are looking for an enterprise grade encrypted chat with all of the reporting and support features. Wire also provides clients Windows, Mac, Linux, IOS, and Android.
Pros: Strong business focus. Protected by European privacy laws.
Cons: Clear text metadata of all conversations.

Wickr: Wickr provides a business-oriented app with an additional focus on compliance. While Wickr has made their code available on GitHub under a public review license, neither the app nor the protocol are released under an open source license. The disappearing messages are a big plus for those who don’t want artifacts of their private conversations on untrusted devices.
Pros: Hash based contact matching. Group chat.
Cons: Unknown user base size.

Tox: Tox is a decentralized peer to peer multimedia messaging platform. The design of the Tox protocol makes it difficult for an attacker to degrade or disable the encryption features. There are several free open source clients available for all of the common platforms. The decentralized nature of the platform make shutting down or blocking the service more difficult. This chat newcomer does have its challenges. The biggest challenge at this time is securely exchanging keys with your contacts.
Pros: Open source and peer-to-peer.
Cons: Small user base.

Whatever your needs are, do your research. Be sure that the app you pick has the features that you need. The challenge will be to get all of your peers and contacts on your preferred app. Otherwise, you’re stuck with multiple apps.

Did we miss any? Have a better app? Let us know in the comments.

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