Tor Messenger: The Future of Encrypted Computer Messaging
Enter…Tor Messenger. That should be enough. No more need for a blog post, I said what needs to be said and this article is done. Alright, I’ll be nice and not end it there.
Tor Messenger is a cross-platform instant messaging bundle–only in beta right now, but you can use it–by the same people that operate Tor and develop the Tor Bundle and the Tails operation system…the Tor Project. So as far as using software that takes advantage of Tor’s “darknet access” (ooooh scary…no, not really) and anonymity features, the Tor Messenger is coming right from the source. The Tor Messenger allows you to use Tor’s anonymity, OTR encrypted messaging, and other features with some of the most popular protocols out there: be it Google Talk, Facebook Messenger (yes, apparently you can login with Facebook and send encrypted messages that way), Twitter, Yahoo!, other XMPP setups…and the list goes on. And, impressively, it has really good defaults set.
Of course, the first issue that people will bring up is that this is only for desktop at the moment, and that’s true (though on Android you do have the app ChatSecure). Personally, I think concentrating on OS X, Linux, and Windows is the more important area to concentrate on as a lot of great encrypted messaging apps are completely ignoring the desktop, and I think to the peril of what these apps are claiming to achieve. Part of the reason that I created the Dark Android Project here was that it is so complex to really setup a secure, encrypted, and anonymous mobile device. With PC’s, it’s significantly easier (you can actually mess with your IP address and MAC ID more easily), it just needs the apps to do it. So the Tor Messenger is a welcome addition.
And not that it’s anything new. We’ve actually been waiting over a year for it. Also, before Tor Messenger, there was TorChat, but that was designed to work explicitly over Tor, and not create an encrypted messaging solution for Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, and the rest.
Speaking of which…that Facebook and Google Talk ability…I had thought (and had reported it some time ago on Sovryn Tech) that Facebook and Google were dumping XMPP and that apps that allowed for encrypting messaging through them (though not expressly over Tor) like Pidgin and others, and thus you wouldn’t be able to encrypt Facebook and Google Talk messaging anymore. I’m not totally clear on what’s going on with this, but I would be very weary about using Tor Messenger with Facebook and Google Talk, as those being a feature of Tor Messenger may not be long for the world. Using it with Twitter and stock XMPP is probably fine, and the Twitter integration is really interesting, actually, but don’t rely on Facebook and Google (in my opinion, don’t rely on those companies’ backends for anything). Maybe I’m missing something here, but regardless, I’ll be keeping an eye on what happens with Tor Messenger going forward at the Dark Android Blog here (particularly to let you know when a direct mobile version is released).
But I’m really glad that this is finally out–even in beta form–and totally open-source, of course. Despite some concerns as late that I have discussed about Tor, it is still an essential tool for anyone interested in security and privacy to use. And the Tor Messenger definitely has the potential to be a “killer app” for desktops/laptops and likely mobile in the future. Hit the download link below to give it a try. The install and setup is as easy as I think is possible for such software. Encrypt all the things!