If you live your life online, as most people do, you probably use a messaging app like Gchat, Skype or Facebook Chat. However, you might want to be careful what you say while using them.
A new report released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Tuesday, Nov. 4 found that supposedly "secure messaging" tools used on computers, phones and tablets may not be as secure as we'd like them to be. The non-profit organization, which advocates for civil rights in the digital world, rated 39 messaging apps across seven categories about their security, which included whether or not the app provider can read your messages and if your past communications can be accessed if your passkey is stolen.
Unfortunately, one of the messaging apps you use may be at risk. The Electronic Frontier Foundation found that many of the most popular messaging apps like Facebook Chat, WhatsApp and Snapchat failed five out of the seven factors, reporting, for instance that the providers and those who get access to your passkey can see your communications. Even "off the record" Gchat conversations are susceptible to this, according to the report. Say it ain't so.
AIM (do people still use AIM?), BlackBerry Messenger, Ebuddy XMS, Hushmail, Kik Messenger, Mxit, Secret, Viber and Yahoo! Messenger (see question regarding AIM) only passed one category in the report, that messages are encrypted in transit.
Out of the 39 messaging apps the Electronic Frontier Foundation examined, only six of them passed with flying colors. This includes ChatSecure + Orbot, CryptoCat, Signal/RedPhone, Silent Phone, Silent Text and TextSecure. I can already see you downloading these apps from here.
"Most of the tools that are easy for the general public to use don't rely on security best practices — including end-to-end encryption and open source code," the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in the report. "Messaging tools that are really secure often aren't easy to use; everyday users may have trouble installing the technology, verifying its authenticity, setting up an account, or may accidentally use it in ways that expose their communications."
The report is part of a new campaign for "secure and usable crypto" from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in collaboration with Julia Angwin at ProPublica and Joseph Bonneau at the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. The issue of government surveillance is clearly a hot topic these days, and the non-profit is hoping the campaign will help inspire more secure communication tools.
With the news of so many high-profile hacks into messaging apps, such as the celebrity nude photo leak and the supposed SnapChat photo leak from the past couple of months, I think we can all agree that it's probably a good idea to not share anything online you wouldn't mind someone else seeing. At least for now.
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