Menu
Popular messaging apps fail EFF's security review

Popular messaging apps fail EFF's security review

The organization ranked 39 digital communication tools based on security features and best practices

Some of the most widely used messaging apps in the world, including Google Hangouts, Facebook chat, Yahoo Messenger and Snapchat, flunked a best-practices security test by advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The organization evaluated 39 messaging products based on seven criteria it believes such tools should meet in order to ensure the privacy and security of digital communications.

The reviewed products included mobile texting apps, instant messaging clients, voice and video calling software and email services. The results were published Tuesday under the form of a Secure Messaging Scorecard.

The EFF did not perform vulnerability assessments or in-depth technical analyses of the encryption implementations in the reviewed products. Instead it judged them based on principles and features it felt are necessary to protect communications from widespread Internet surveillance by governments, which includes data collection in transit or from online service providers.

When reviewing the products, the EFF asked the following questions:

-- Does the application encrypt data in transit?

-- Is the communication encrypted with a key the provider doesn't have access to? This requires the use of encryption keys negotiated directly between user clients, also known as end-to-end encryption.

-- Can users independently verify the identity of contacts they are speaking to even if the service provider is compromised?

-- Do previous communications remain secure even if users' long-term private keys are compromised? This property, known as forward secrecy requires cryptographic implementations that use ephemeral encryption keys for every session.

-- Is the product's code for communication and encryption open to independent review?

-- Is the product's cryptographic design well documented? This requires listing the product's encryption and authentication algorithms; documenting the key generation, storage and exchange mechanisms; describing the process of revoking and changing keys; stating the protections the software aims to provide and the scenarios where it might not be secure.

-- Has the product's design and implementation been subjected to an independent security audit in the previous twelve months? An audit by a security team that is independent of the product's development team within the same organization is sufficient.

Six applications, most of them open source, met all of the EFF's requirements: CryptoCat, a Web-based instant messaging application; ChatSecure, an encrypted chat client for iPhone and Android; TextSecure, a text messaging app for Android; RedPhone, an encrypted calling app for Android and Signal, its version for iOS; Silent Text and Silent Phone, the encrypted texting and calling apps by secure communications provider Silent Circle.

There were other apps that came close, failing on just one criteria -- the annual code audit or the forward secrecy requirements. These products were Mailvelope, RetroShare, Subrosa, Jitsi, Adium and Pidgin.

Of the mass-market products, Apple's iMessage and FaceTime scored the highest, failing on only two requirements -- the availability of code for independent review and the out-of-band contact identity verification. This means they don't currently provide complete protection against sophisticated, targeted forms of surveillance, the EFF said.

Other widely used communication tools scored much worse, meeting only one or two of the seven requirements. This was the case of Google Hangouts, Facebook chat, Yahoo Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber, AIM, BlackBerry Messenger and several others. None of these products offer end-to-end encryption making communications through them susceptible to surveillance on the provider's side.

South African mobile social network Mxit and widely used Chinese instant messaging service QQ don't provide encryption at all, making them the least secure products of the 39 that were tested.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityprivacyGoogleFacebookAppledata protectionencryptiononline safetyElectronic Frontier FoundationSilent Circle

Featured

Slideshows

Meet the leading female front runners of the Kiwi channel

Meet the leading female front runners of the Kiwi channel

Reseller News honoured the leading female front runners of the New Zealand channel at the 2018 Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) in Auckland. The awards honoured standout individuals across seven categories, spanning Entrepreneur; Innovation; Rising Star; Shining Star; Community; Technical and Achievement.

Meet the leading female front runners of the Kiwi channel
Meet the top performing customer-centric Microsoft channel partners

Meet the top performing customer-centric Microsoft channel partners

Microsoft honoured leading partners across the channel following a year of customer innovation and market growth in New Zealand. The 2018 Microsoft Partner Awards recognised excellence within the context of the end-user, spanning a host of emerging and established providers.

Meet the top performing customer-centric Microsoft channel partners
Reseller News launches new-look Awards at 2018 Judges’ Lunch

Reseller News launches new-look Awards at 2018 Judges’ Lunch

Introducing the Reseller News Innovation Awards, launched to the channel at the 2018 Judges’ Lunch in Auckland. With more than 70 judges now part of the voting panel, the new-look awards will reflect the changing dynamics of the channel, recognising excellence across customer value and innovation - spanning start-ups, partners, distributors and vendors.

Reseller News launches new-look Awards at 2018 Judges’ Lunch
Show Comments