Open Whisper Systems, the creator of secure messaging app Signal, just released a new open beta update to add encrypted video calling into the mix.
Signal has been receiving high praise from security experts and even NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden lauded the app for its native end-to-end encryption support, which ensures users' conversations are private and secure.
In fact, Signal is among the top most secure messaging apps and it's now taking a step further, aiming to deliver secure video calls as well. The latest Signal update consists of an open beta to test encrypted video calling to secure conversations on all fronts, not just written and voice chats.
The new Signal update for Android and iOS includes the open beta support for encrypted video calls, which means that all users can test the feature and provide feedback to improve it.
Signal Encrypted Video Beta
"This represents an entirely new calling infrastructure for Signal, and should increase voice call quality as well," says Open Whisper Systems in a blog post announcing the new update. "We think it's a big improvement, but we're rolling it out in stages to collect feedback from people with different devices, networks, and regions in order to ensure there are no surprises when it's enabled for everyone by default."
So far, Signal has been offering full end-to-end encryption for chat and voice calls, but the encryption did not cover video calls. With the open beta, Signal aims to extend the courtesy to video calls as well, allowing users to see each other when they talk without compromising security. In addition, the update also aims to improve the existing voice calling feature to make the whole experience smoother.
Why Use Signal?
The Snowden-backed messaging app has a diverse user base, allowing anyone to take advantage of its advanced security features to communicate securely and privately. Various activists and journalists have relied on Signal to communicate with others, but the app's demographic extends to anyone who values their privacy. People use Signal also for regular conversations such as casual chats with GIFs, not just to communicate sensitive content.
With the new update, Signal wants to cater to both categories — those who need top security as well as those who just carry casual conversations — by adding video capabilities into the mix.
If everything goes well, Signal should deliver a video calling option similar to Apple's FaceTime and Google's Hangouts, but with considerably higher security with end-to-end encryption.
Signal users on Android and iOS who want to test the new encrypted video feature need to head over to Signal Settings > Advanced > Video calling beta and toggle it on. To take advantage of the new video calling system, both Signal users part of the conversation need to have the video calling beta enabled.
Signal CallKit On iOS 10
The latest update also allows users to use CallKit in iOS 10 to answer calls directly from their lock screen. This way, Signal calls are treated just as regular calls. On the downside, this added convenience might take a toll on security, as the call duration and destination will sync with iCloud. Those who would rather not have any such syncing can just turn off the feature from their smartphone's settings.