If you own an iPhone or Android handset and care about your privacy, there’s no longer much of an excuse not to encrypt every conversation you have. Now a free, zero-learning-curve app exists for both text and voice, keeping those communications fully encrypted so no one but the person holding the phone on the other end can decipher your words.
On Monday, the open-source encryption software group, Open Whisper Systems, announced a new upgrade to Signal, its iOS app that enables end-to-end encrypted voice calling. With the update, Signal will end-to-end encrypt text messages, too.
In fact, the Signal update completes a suite of mobile encryption apps that they’ve been developing for several years. They released Redphone and Textsecure for Android, two apps that enabled end-to-end encrypted voice calls (using VoIP and the ZRTP protocol developed by PGP creator, Phil Zimmermann) and text messages. Users of the two biggest smartphone operating systems can finally both call and text each other with encryption that foils virtually any eavesdropper.
It’s important to note that Apple’s own iMessage uses end-to-end encryption, too. But the security community has long warned that iMessage’s closed-sourced approach may include vulnerabilities that could allow snooping. Signal, unlike iMessage, lets users check the fingerprints of each others’ keys (with a long press on the user’s contact name) to verify that they’re not sending their messages to some man-in-the-middle who stealthily passes them on to the intended recipient. iMessage doesn’t let you verify those public keys of the people you’re communicating with, potentially leaving you open to man-in-the-middle attacks by Apple or any government agency that forces its cooperation.
The best feature of Signal is that despite its heavy security and new texting functionality, it remains just as simple as the iPhone’s default calling and texting apps. Porting TextSecure to the iPhone opens it up to millions of potential users. But it’s already seen impressive adoption on Android: the standalone TextSecure app has been downloaded to about 500,000 Android phones. It also got a boost of about 10 million users when it was integrated as the default texting app in the Cyanogenmod version of Android in late 2013.
TextSecure may have the potential to serve as the protocol for practically all encrypted messaging in the mobile era. Now iPhone users are finally invited to the privacy party, too.
(Image Source: iCLIPART)