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WhatsApp’s new encryption won’t protect you unless you’re also doing all these things April 6, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in 25 killer Websites that make you cleverer, Uncategorized.
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Odaa Oromoo

Whatsapp adds end-to-end encryption; Viber to by-pass blockage



WhatsApp made waves yesterday with its decision to switch on end-to-end encryption for all its billion-plus users. “End-to-end” means the communication is encrypted before it leaves your phone and decrypted only after it reaches the other person’s phone, so nobody else, not even WhatsApp itself, can read or listen to it.

Encryption alone isn’t much help unless all the following things are happening as well.


You’re not storing messages on your phone

If you really need a message to stay secret, delete it after it’s read. If someone gets hold of your phone (e.g. by stealing it) and can get into it—as the FBI has now done with the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter—everything that’s on there will still be accessible. Some messaging apps, such as Telegram, have an “auto-destruct” feature that deletes messages from the phone after a set period of time. WhatsApp currently doesn’t. (Telegram, on the other hand, doesn’t use end-to-end encryption by default; you have to choose it.)


You’re not backing up messages to the cloud

WhatsApp doesn’t store your messages on its servers. But in an iPhone, for instance, you can tell WhatsApp to keep a backup of messages in iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage service. Once the information is in the cloud, it could be subpoenaed by a government.

Read more at: WhatsApp’s new encryption won’t protect you unless you’re also doing all these things — Quartz


(The Guardian) — From strict privacy policies to its origins in Israel, there are a few things that distinguish Viber, the upstart free calls and messaging application, from its more established rival Skype. But the feature its 200 million international followers seem to appreciate most is the stickers.

A selection of images that can be texted as an alternative to written messages, the stickers available include love hearts, a red rose, the obligatory LOL, and the controversial middle finger hand gesture. There have been outraged calls for its removal.

Viber founder Talmon Marco is listening. “It will not be available by default with the next release of Viber,” he says.

Having begun life three years ago in the Israeli iPhone app store, before going international and onto other mobile platforms including Android, Blackberry and Windows, Viber took the fight to Skype’s home turf by launching a desktop version in May. Downloads onto personal computers are already in the millions.

Speaking from Singapore, Marco is busy preparing the next two important milestones. The first is a sticker store. While this may not sound momentous, it represents the company’s first foray into money making.

The app and all its current services, including calls between Viber users, will remain free. But in order to transform itself into a real business, Viber must search for revenues.

“We announced earlier this year that we will start monetising. The first thing we are going to announce is a sticker store, but we will be introducing additional paid services as early as this year.”

The second development, which is already being tested in Saudi Arabia, is technology that can stop Viber being blocked. During its rapid expansion, Viber has occasionally met resistance from both mobile networks and some of the more authoritarian states.

For some time, many Vodafone customers have been unable to use Viber without disruption, particularly those on pay-as-you-go tariffs, says Marco. Mobile operators have previously voiced concerns about free calls and messaging apps as a threat to their own revenues.

And there has been government opposition. Iran, Syria and Lebanon have all lifted previous blocks on Viber, but the service was recently barred by the Saudi Arabian authorities. Marco says the ban was introduced after Saudi officials indicated to Skype, Viber and the popular messaging service Whatsapp that they would be blocked if they did not agree to be monitored.

Social networks have allowed unprecedented freedom to communicate in Saudi Arabia, propelling a steep adoption curve. They are also relied on by the nation’s many foreign workers as a cheap way to keep in touch with families abroad.

“A few days ago we launched a test of Viber with enhanced connectivity,” says Marco. “This version allows users to connect in places where Viber is blocked. At present we have several thousand users in Saudi Arabia that can access Viber despite the local ban. Once the technology is rolled out, we will likely roll it out to Vodafone UK users as well.”

Marco says he is serious about the right to communicate, and the ability to do so in privacy. Viber’s policy is that if it receives a proper subpoena, it will provide records of who made and received calls, and when, but that no content from those conversations will be shared.

He says Viber does not “have the capability to listen to conversations”. Messages are stored, for two weeks or until they are opened by the recipient, whichever is shorter. Around 80% are deleted in less than a second. The messages are encrypted, and Marco says he has never handed the encryption key to any government.

“We have been asked if we would co-operate. We never provided anybody with anything that will let them listen to conversations or messages on Viber. I do believe people should take notice of the fact that the Saudi government has threatened three companies with shutdown of service – us, Skype and Whatsapp. Only one company was shut down. Users should ask themselves why the other companies were not shut down.”

In fact, Marco has himself been accused by at least one blogger of being an agent of the Israeli state. The rather sketchy claims are based on his military career. He spent four years in the Israel Defence Forces, rising to chief information officer of the central command.

But Viber was funded entirely by what Marco refers to as “friends and family”. “We never took a single dollar from the state of Israel, we are not even incorporated in Israel. We maintain a research and development centre in Israel and that’s it.”

For now, Viber is growing quickly. With just 120 staff, based in Cyprus and Belarus as well as Marco’s homeland, the app is being downloaded by more than 500,000 people a day and reached 200m downloads in May. Last time Viber released information on usage, in February, it was carrying 3bn minutes of calls and 12bn text messages every month. It has some way to go to catch up with Skype – which in April announced 2bn calls a day.

But on the mobile phone, if the iPhone app store reviews are to be believed, Viber is better liked. Skype’s transition to mobile has been rocky, with users complaining the service crashes. Most give Skype a one-star rating on iPhone, while Viber receives the maximum of five stars from most of its reviewers.

Time will tell whether revelations by the Guardian and other media about the extent of Skype’s cooperation with intelligence agencies will harm its business. But Marco believes individuals should care.

“Personally, I would be concerned being on a service knowing that everybody can listen to my conversations,” he says. “People should be concerned about their privacy.”