The high-profile legal battle between FBI and Apple over encryption has sparked a public discussion over whether governments or courts must be given a "backdoor" to decrypt software and hardware devices.
Several technology giants, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft have supported Apple's stance to further strengthen the security feature of devices, thus making it impossible for third parties, individual hackers and government alike, to crack the encryption.
Viber has officially joined the club of technology and messaging companies that increased user privacy. Following its rival WhatsApp, Viber has added end-to-end encryption to protect all conversations between its individual and group users with a new update to version 6.0.
End-to-end encryption means that no third party, including Viber, will be able to read or access private messages except the users themselves. All text, voice, and group chats will be covered by the encryption and it's guaranteed to work across mobile and PC versions of Viber.
The new encryption feature will be automatically available to all Viber users. A "lock" icon will appear in the text entry box to alert the user that the encryption has been enabled. Viber has also added a few bonus features for users who want to apply another layer of security to their account.
The lock icons are color coded for users. A gray lock icon means that a standard end-to-end encryption is taking effect, thus protecting all communication. Users are also provided with a cryptographic key that can be used to authenticate identity when using the device. The lock icon turns green when this feature is activated.
A red lock icon, on the other hand, sends out an alert that someone may be trying to listen to the conversation or hack the account. There is no reason to panic though every time a red lock appears, because it can also signal that the other party you are talking to is switching to another device. If this is the case, users are advised to re-authenticate each other for the lock icon to switch back to green.
Viber, which has more than 700 million active users worldwide, says that this new encryption feature is scheduled to roll out over the next two weeks. Viber's chief operating officer, Michael Shmilov notes that the company has been working on this feature for a while and it's now "proud that the users can confidently use Viber without fear of their messages being intercepted."
Apple was the first company to deploy end-to-end encryption on Messages, followed by Viber's major competitor, WhatsApp. All three companies have enabled encryption by default for all messages. It remains to be seen whether other companies will join this move to safeguard user data and default to enabling encryption for their users.