Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations regarding US National Security Agency’s global monitoring of the Internet made very clear how insecure our ‘private communication’ actually is, especially as it’s very unlikely that the US are the only country doing such monitoring. Big Brother is, it seems, always watching.
In this situation more and more people are looking for ways to secure their personal communication online – for government officials and businessmen it is essential, while many ordinary individuals are also turning to secure services to protect their privacy.
We estimate that around 15% of ‘normal’ Internet users are concerned about this matter and this percentage is expected to grow as more people respond to the Internet security trends and recognize the importance of having their lives and words hidden from Big Brother.
There are a lot of popular messengers on the market, including Skype, WhatsApp and SnapChat. However, the “encryption of client server connections” system used by these services, while better than nothing, is less secure that many users might expect.
Under this system data is only encrypted, and therefore secure, while it is being transmitted. In order to be decrypted or re-encrypted sent data is processed through the servers of the particular messaging system, where it may be stored and, therefore, can potentially be accessed by hackers. And while some providers (like Pavel Durov’s Telegram) use their own proprietary encryption protocol, they still only encrypt data while it is traveling, and so information is vulnerable on the provider’s servers.
There is, however, a higher level of messaging security – ‘end-to-end’ encryption. In this case, sent messages are encrypted at all stages of transmission and they can be correctly decrypted only when they reach the receiver’s computer.
Messengers offering this type of protection are not far less popular than the services mentioned above, but they do exist and have a committed (and growing) client base across the world of concerned Internet users. You may know about SilentCircle, co-founded by Phil Zimmerman, one of the pioneers of public-key cryptography. There’s also a technology called OTR (Off-The-Record Messaging), an open source end-to-end encryption protocol used by variety of other popular messengers like Pidgin, Adium and IM+. While all of these services offer a very high level of security, there are differences between them, many have sacrificed convenience in favour of heightened security. However, ViPole, claims that its smart-key managing system combines the best of both worlds.
While the private keys (that encrypt and decrypt messages) used by other services are time-limited and device limited, ViPole generates permanent private keys that allow users to synchronize their data across different devices, send messages to offline users and store files that can then be downloaded later.
Another advantage of ViPole offers is the option to organize group chats with end-to-end encryption. The latter feature can be a game changer for businessmen. However, what if these permanent private keys are stolen or hacked?
ViPole says that this is impossible, and that without a quantum computer, it would take years to decrypt the messages thanks to the key sizes and cryptographic algorithms used by the service. ViPole, as a service provider, don’t store the keys and therefore cannot access the messages, stored on their servers. So even if law enforcement agencies produced a court order and demanded access to the information, they would only be able to offer access to heavily encrypted files which even the NSA would have a hard time cracking.
Big Brother might be watching, but there are still plenty of ways to hide.
About the author – Maria Podlesnova
Maria is a cofounder and CEO of RusBase, VC guide to the Russian tech market that provides news, data and services. Maria has 5 year experience in managing and promotion of IT projects in Russian Internet. Maria is successful in building up projects of innovation and eGovernment spheres. Her PR-background and expertise in building great teams has led to creating a platform that opens Russian VC market for global players. You can follow RusBase on Twitter.