As the world moves forward encryption in all forms is becoming a big topic. Revelations in recent years sparking debate about who has access to what information and how safe our private communications are has become a focal point. Whether it’s our browsing habits, our buying habits or our personal communications every area of our increasingly online connected lives is at risk of being intercepted by both government organisations and other unscrupulous criminals.
An increased uptake in both encrypted forms of internet use such as the massive explosion in Virtual Private Network use coupled with the push to secure such individual aspect of internet services is being witnessed. Web browsing itself is becoming increasingly secure thanks to the push towards making use of SSL from companies such as Google on their standard search engine signalling the internet and our communications are becoming ever more encrypted.
One area that has lacked more than others is the way in which we communicate directly with each other on an individual basis and lacking greatly are encrypted chat apps. While our other usage is becoming secure the lack of available tools to encrypt our communications has been evident. There are many tools available to secure instant chat communications but very few that replicate that model for the instant messaging world and with the current available tools being out of reach from the average user based on their complicated technical set up there sits a gap in the market for a fully encrypted instant messenger type product.
Instant messenger products are slowly replacing services such a SMS with more and more users taking cost or included text messages saving routes and opting to use apps such as WhatsApp. With over 500 million active users and over 10 billion messages sent per day on WhatsApp alone the instant messaging business is at full throttle. While messaging services such as WhatsApp are extremely popular and rather good at what they do they lack one basic feature and that is the security and encryption of the communications they process.
Industry leading VPN provider Golden Frog who offer the highly rated VyprVPN service have recently launched what could be seen as WhatsApp on steroids, an encrypted chat app known as Cyphr. With a similar messaging ability but with one major difference which is the service offers full messaging encryption of the messages that pass through it from the end of the sender to the end of the recipient. One of the benefits of the application is it generates a public and private key which means the only two people able to read your conversation are yourself and your chat partner. With the built in encryption system no middle man or 3rd party could decrypt your messages which means that your ISP, phone provider or even Golden Frog themselves can not read your messages.
Coupled with the 256 bit encryption is the fact Golden Frog have their own servers based in the privacy loving country of Switzerland. This is used as the hub of the Cyphr system and while this may seem to be the weak link in the chain the system is in fact rather clever. While it is true that certain information needs to be passed to their servers the information that is stored until the message is delivery is actually very small and includes the encrypted message, the recipient of the message and the time stamp of when the message was received. The smart part of the system is this data is then deleted from their servers when the message is delivered leaving no trace of the message afterwards. It’s a similar fashion to the old cartoon joke of the message that self destructs after it is read, except your recipient gets to keep the messages for as long as they wish and the history of that self destructs from the server it passed through.
The app is currently in a beta mode and available for Android and iOS. One of the exciting features is Golden Frog are planning on releasing either or both a desktop and web app which will make it one of the first systems that are able to offer instant messaging across mobile and desktop platforms. Currently light on features feedback is being taken and updates released on a consistent basis which makes this encrypted messaging system something to look forward to.
Exciting times for those who require an encrypted chat app and now the only barrier to mass uptake will be the public’s understanding of why encrypted communication is a good thing plus the ability for Golden Frog to shoehorn users already happy and content with unencrypted systems such as WhatsApp. A messaging type system is only ever as good as the amount of users using it, just like the VHS vs Betamax war of the 80’s and the Blu-ray vs HD DVD of the 2000’s, if you don’t have the discs to use on the system then the system is useless, just as a messenger relies on the users.