Three desktop tools for ultra-private encrypted chats

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chat Securely With Tor Messenger Beta.

The underground Web network just released a beta version of its cross-platform chat program, which lets you chat securely on familiar messaging services.The anonymity network Tor has long been the paranoid standard for privacy online, and the Tor Browser that runs on it remains the best way to use the web while revealing the least identifying data. Based on the Mozilla instant messaging client Instantbird, Tor Messenger supports popular programs like Jabber, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Twitter, and Yahoo.

Now the non-profit Tor Project has officially released another piece of software that could bring that same level of privacy to instant messaging: a seamless and simple app that both encrypts the content of IMs and also makes it very difficult for an eavesdropper to identify the person sending them. It allows for off-the-record (OTR) messaging, and sports an easy-to-use UI in multiple languages. “Tor Messenger builds on the networks you are familiar with, so that you can continue communicating in a way your contacts are willing and able to do,” a blog post said. The Tor Project is the non-profit organisation behind the Tor network, the free, encrypted network that conceals a user’s location or internet use from anyone conducting surveillance or traffic analysis.

It’s also compatible with the same XMPP or “Jabber” chat protocol used by millions of Facebook and Google accounts, as well as desktop clients like Adium for Mac and Pidgin for Windows. Future releases may include reproducible builds for Windows and OS X, sandboxing, automatic updates, improved Tor support, OTR over Twitter DMs, and encrypted file transfers. The result is that anyone can download the software and in seconds start sending messages to their pre-existing contacts that are not only strongly encrypted, but tunneled through Tor’s maze of volunteer computers around the world to hide the sender’s IP address. “With Tor Messenger, your chat is encrypted and anonymous…so it is hidden from snoops, whether they are the government of a foreign country or a company trying to sell you boots,” Tor public policy director Kate Krauss wrote to WIRED in a Tor Messenger conversation. A free network of tunnels for routing Web requests and page downloads, Tor is supposed to make it impossible for the sites you access to figure out who you are.

She emphasized that despite those features, the program’s use of a pre-existing chat protocol means users won’t need to rebuild their network of contacts. “You can use your Jabber address and your old contacts–you aren’t reinventing the wheel–but wow, much safer.” Popular IM programs like Pidgin and Adium have long had the option to switch on OTR for encrypted messaging and even send their messages over Tor for anonymity. However, your route to the server will be hidden because you are communicating over Tor.” The Tor Messenger beta is available for Windows, Mac and both 32-bit and 64-bit Linux.

It shares the user’s contact info and contact list with the server connecting him or her to anyone on the other side of a conversation—its developers describe this as a necessary compromise to make the program compatible with other XMPP clients. The group’s developers point out that they’ve programmed the software in JavaScript wherever possible instead of the libpurple codebase written in C and used by Pidgin and Adium—a piece of code known for its bountiful security bugs. But they still warn users not to trust Tor Messenger until it’s been more comprehensively audited. “Please note that this release is for users who would like to help us with testing the product but at the same time who also understand the risks involved in using beta software,” writes Singh, quoting the Tor Project’s blog post about the release. “As such, don’t rely on this product for strong anonymity just yet.” Now that Tor Messenger is in beta, however, its developers are welcoming the outside world to scrutinize the software for bugs. To add a friend using their public key click the “+” icon at the bottom of the screen, paste their public key on the next screen, and then click Add Contact.

After some auditing and bugfixes, the program is set to become a powerful and popular tool for instant, idiot-proof, and surveillance-resistant communication. Whether you prefer to chat using the browser, a desktop app, or absolutely must use Google Talk, one of these programs should suit your needs to keep your conversations private.

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