Skype Founder Touts Ultra Secure Messaging App Wire

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For when you absolutely, positively, don’t want the NSA snooping on your communications

The co-founder of Skype, Janus Friis, as well as former Skype engineers, have created a new ultra secure messaging app called Wire that promises end-to-end encryption for all conversations, including video calls.

The move is sure to add to the stress levels of law enforcement officials across the world, as technology firms and authorities increasingly clash over the right to privacy for consumers.

Full Encryption

The app has actually been around for 18 months with its first ieration appearing in December 2014, but it has now added secure video calling to its arsenal of secure messaging capabilities. The app is currently available for Android, iOS, and Windows PCs and promises “crystal clear” HD quality calls.

The Switzerland-based startup Wire Swiss GmbH is small, employing just 50 staff, most of whom are engineers. It finds itself competing against a number of rivals including Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Threema and Signal.

What makes Wire different from these companies is it says its rivals only offer encryption on only parts of a message’s journey or for a limited set of services, Reuters quoted the firm as saying. It claims that text, voice, video and media on Wire are always end-to-end encrypted 1:1 and in groups.

WireappA breakdown of its privacy and security features, as compared to its rivals, is available here.

And because it is a Swiss firm and its servers are in Switzerland, it means the United States has no legal access to its data. It also doesn’t sell user usage information to other firms and doesn’t have adverts or popups. It regularly publishes Transparency Reports in which it discloses details about any requests from law enforcement.

“We believe Wire is unique in the industry with always-on encryption for all conversation(s), in groups or 1:1, with simultaneous support for multiple devices,” Wire CTO Alan Duric reportedly said in a statement.

“Everything is end-to-end encrypted: That means voice and video calls, texts, pictures, graphics – all the content you can send,” Wire Executive Chairman Janus Friis told Reuters. The firm says that it uses “state-of-the-art, open source encryption” that is always on, for all conversations.

“Conversation content is encrypted with strong encryption on the sender’s device and only decrypted on the recipient’s device,” says the firm. “Wire doesn’t hold the decryption keys and our software contains no backdoor. Your data is your data — Wire has no access to it.”

Ongoing Battle

The emergence of apps like Wire comes amid growing tensions between law enforcement officials and tech firms over the use of encryption.

The chief for Europol has previously said the increasing prevalence of encrypted Internet communications presents a major difficulty for law-enforcement and national security efforts.

And the leading counter-terrorism policeman in the UK has previously said that some tech firms are helping militants avoid detection by developing systems that are “friendly to terrorists”.

Apple meanwhile is at the centre of a high profile battle as it refuses to create a “backdoor” to allow the FBI to access the phone data of the San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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