Signal, A Dead-Easy Phone Crypto App, Comes To The Desktop
For the last half decade, Moxie Marlinspike has been working to make end-to-end encrypted conversations so easy that they’re nearly indistinguishable from unencrypted ones. Now his software organization, Open Whisper Systems, is taking the next step to extend that layer of dead-simple privacy across all your gadgets, including those big, old-fashioned ones sitting on your desk.
On Wednesday, Open Whisper launched an open beta version of its free encryption app Signal as an app in Google’s Chrome web store, the first step in bringing its encrypted messaging and calling functions to the desktop. For now the desktop app only links with Signal accounts registered on an Android device, and only supports text-based messaging, not voice. But Marlinspike says a desktop version that synchs with iOS devices is coming soon, along with encrypted desktop voice calls and more encrypted file-sharing features. All of that promises to make Signal the most broadly adaptable, full-featured, and free secure communications platform available.
“Our objective is to make private messaging and end-to-end encryption ubiquitous,” Marlinspike says. “You can be having a conversation on your phone, and if you want to use all ten fingers, you switch to your desktop and the conversation is right there…That’s a requirement of the modern world, but we haven’t historically had end-to-end encryption that allowed people to use their devices that way.”
Since they first launched on Android five years ago in the form of a pair of apps called Redphone and Textsecure, Marlinspike’s encrypted texting and voice apps have become favorites in the privacy community—even Edward Snowden has tweeted his appreciation of them. Johns Hopkins crypto professor Matthew Green wrote in a 2013 blog post that “after reading Moxie’s RedPhone code the first time, I literally discovered a line of drool running down my face. It’s really nice.” Meanwhile, the apps have been installed on more than a million Android phones alone, and the Textsecure encrypted texting protocol has been integrated by default into the popular Cyanogenmod version of Android and the half-billion Android installations of Whatsapp.
Launching on the desktop may be the next step in Signal’s encryption domination, seamlessly replacing tools like Skype and Google Hangout with something far more secure. “Our objective is to produce products that are completely frictionless and where the security aspect is as invisible as possible,” Marlinspike says. “It works just like any insecure messaging app that you’re used to.”
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