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After WhatsApp, Viber now encrypts all conversations

Viber

After WhatsApp, Viber too has rolled out end-to-end encryption to all of its users. The company mentioned in a blog post that the feature will be available through its latest update across all devices supported by Viber. All communications including one-to-one chats, group messaging and voice calls will be encrypted under the new update.

Users will be notified with a ‘grey padlock icon’ once the encryption feature is live and additionally Viber will assign an individual cryptography key for each device that runs the app. A user can also manually set contacts on his/her phone as  ‘trusted’; this will change the padlock color to green. When the padlock color changes to red, it could mean two things—a breach between the communication, indicating a ‘man-in the-middle-attack’, or the contact has just moved to a new device.

WhatsApp encryption: This month WhatsApp rolled out end-to-end encryption to all communication on the platform by default, including calls, video calls, group messages, group calls etc. The company had partnered with open source mobile security services provider Open Whisper Systems in 2014, to make use of the latter’s TextSecure protocol for this initiative. WhatsApp crossed 1 billion active users in February.

Encryption is not new to messaging as almost every popular messaging platform is increasingly turning on encryption for its users. The encryption policy adopted by both Viber and WhatsApp will bring in a more secure environment for users as communication between two ends will be almost impossible to be intercepted by anyone including the service provider. This means requests for data by governments will be technically impossible to comply with.

Hidden Chats: With the new update, Viber has also added a feature to hide specific chats or conversations in the main screen. The hidden messages will be accessible only by entering a four-digit PIN. According to Viber, this functionality is aimed at bringing better privacy to people who use a shared device.

HiddenChatsPR

Viber was acquired by Rakuten in 2014, following which the messaging app had reportedly crossed 700 million users. As of April 2015, it claimed to have at least 40 million users in India only. In July 2015, it acquired social gaming startup Nextpeer for $9M. The messaging was also introduced in Google’s Chrome OS platform for users having devices like the Chromebook.

MediaNama’s Take: In contrast to Apple, which took the center stage recently for upholding privacy and encryption against FBI, it is not surprising to see top messaging platforms adopting encryption. What’s more surprising is that the US Justice Department was looking into ways to wiretap WhatsApp conversations in an unnamed (non-terrorism related) criminal investigation. In addition, Apple is again dealing with a new case in the US, as the government has yet again appealed to unlock another iPhone in a New York drug case.

Therefore, resorting end-end-encryption could prevent future government intrusion and requests for decryption, as apparently Apple has given into most data requests made by authorities. Additionally, encryption also prevents ‘man in the middle attacks’, hackers trying to intercept communications, and more importantly prevents companies themselves from accessing the chats or data.

Image credits: Flickr user Sam Azgor under CC BY 2.0

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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