How Secure is Your Messaging App?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Propublica and the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy have teamed up to explore the security of common messaging apps.

Via EFF:

The Secure Messaging Scorecard examines dozens of messaging technologies and rates each of them on a range of security best practices. Our campaign is focused on communication technologies – including chat clients, text messaging apps, email applications, and video calling technologies. These are the tools everyday users need to communicate with friends, family members, and colleagues, and we need secure solutions for them.

We chose technologies that have a large user base–and thus a great deal of sensitive user communications–in addition to smaller companies that are pioneering advanced security practices. We’re hoping our scorecard will serve as a race-to-the-top, spurring innovation around strong crypto for digital communications.

Takeaway: choose or change the messaging app you use to maximize communication security but remember this caveat from Propublica’s Julia Angwin:

Keep in mind, even an unbreakable encryption tool can be circumvented by hackers or spies that secretly install software on a computer or phone that hijacks communications before it is encrypted.

And even the best encryption tools still don’t do enough. All the tools require both people communicating to install software. And few tools provide much anonymity – so even if your messages are unreadable by anyone but you, your contact list could still be exposed. And many of the tools are run by rag-tag teams of volunteers, which could mean that they won’t last.

Images: Secure Messaging Scorecard, via EFF. Select to embiggen.

25 years ago today, March 1, 1990:  The US Secret Service raided the offices of Steve Jackson Games.  The incident helped lead to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the resulting lawsuit set the first legal precedent for email privacy.  (Above: 1st edition GURPS: Cyberpunk by Loyd Blankenship, SJG, 1990.  Publication was delayed when the electronic files were seized in the raid.)

EFF breaks down positives and negatives of the USA Freedom Act


The Senate passed the USA Freedom Act today by 67-32, marking the first time in over thirty years that both houses of Congress have approved a bill placing real restrictions and oversight on the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers. The weakening amendments to the legislation proposed by NSA defender Senate Majority Mitch McConnell were defeated, and we have every reason to believe that President Obama will sign USA Freedom into law. Technology users everywhere should celebrate, knowing that the NSA will be a little more hampered in its surveillance overreach, and both the NSA and the FISA court will be more transparent and accountable than it was before the USA Freedom Act.