Snowden-Endorsed IM App Signal Arrives on Android

A private instant messaging app that has the approval of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has finally been released for Android devices. Signal, developed by Open Whisper Systems, has been available for iOS since 2014, combining its previous two apps RedPhone and TextSecure, and is considered the most secure messaging and voice call app available, also garnering the support of online privacy advocates the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Signal is open source, available on GitHub, and uses advanced end-to-end encryption protocols to secure data for both sender and receiver, and allows message verification via key fingerprints and call integrity through checking matching words on both ends. The app also supports group chat, with none of the metadata related to group membership stored by Open Whisper Systems.

“As always, Signal uses your existing phone number and address book. There are no separate logins, usernames, passwords, or PINs to manage or lose,” the Signal webpage reads. “We cannot hear your conversations or see your messages, and no one else can either. Everything in Signal is always end-to-end encrypted, and painstakingly engineered in order to keep your communication safe.”

Snowden is a famous advocate of Signal, reaffirming his support following the release of the app for Android:

Signal is available for download from the Google Play store now.

WhatsApp Messages Led to Belgian Terror Arrests

The FBI have been trying hard to get unlimited access messages passed by encrypted messaging services. However, it apparently didn’t need that level of access to WhatsApp messages sent between members of an alleged Chechen jihadist group operating in Belgium. According to reports released. A pair of men were arrested and warrants were issued for three others for allegedly preparing for a terrorist attack in Belgium.

Ars Technica posted:

“The arrests followed raids in which 16 people were detained, which Belgian law enforcement officials said was the result of “working with U.S. authorities to monitor suspects’ communications on WhatsApp Inc.’s messaging service,” Bloomberg’s Gaspard Sebag reported. The police investigation began after they obtained information about a man who had returned to Belgium after fighting as a jihadi in Syria.

Ars reached out to WhatsApp and to Facebook, which completed its acquisition of WhatsApp in October. A spokesperson from Facebook declined to comment on the matter.”

WhatsApp began encrypting their messages last November. In theory, if the encryption service was in use by the alleged terrorists, the content of their messages would have been very difficult to read; the protocol continuously changes pairs of encryption keys with each new message. But it’s uncertain that the messages were encrypted—particularly since the version of encryption is not supported by the Apple iOS version of WhatsApp, and group messages and images aren’t supported by WhatsApp for Andriod yet.

“Even if some of the messages remained protected by encryption, it’s possible that the FBI or NSA gathered metadata at the server for the messages. That metadata could have been used to establish the connections between the suspects and the wounded jihadi, which would have allowed the US agencies or Belgian law enforcement to do more targeted surveillance.”

Thank you to ArsTechnica for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of  RedmondPie

Skype for Web Rolls out in New Beta Version for US and UK Users

Have you ever been to an internet café or wanted to Skype a friend or family member from a shared computer? It is really frustrating when you try to use it and you see they don’t have Skype installed, isn’t it? Well, Skype just made things simple for you.

Whether you have a Mac or Windows PC, or even a (compatible) mobile phone with internet access, you can now head on over to Skype for Web. I did mention compatible previously because I tried to sign into the web platform on my Windows Phone handset, to which I was redirected to a page telling me that my device is still not compatible with the web service.

Even so, you can grab any laptop or PC and sign in to view your conversations and get access to IM. On some platforms, the service even provides calls and video calls, though the feature may still be a bit buggy. But hey, that’s why you have “beta” in the service’s name, isn’t it?

Still, Skype really did a good job on providing a way to sign onto its service with just a web browser and even get the full Skype experience on some compatible hardware. You can head on over to Skype’s website to try it out. Also, let us know what you think about Skype’s new initiative!

These Eight Characters Crash Skype

Users have found a rather interesting bug in the popular voice and video calling application, Skype. The problem (now fixed in an update) caused skype to crash when you sent “http://:” via an instant message.

Once the message has been sent, if you re-open Skype – it will instantly crash again because it is in the chat log.

The bug has so far been discovered on Windows, Android and Ios. However, it doesn’t have an effect on Skype for Mac or Skype on Windows 8 (the metro interface application). Several users commented on the Skype forums and stated:

“clearing chat history not helps, because when skype download chat history from server, it will crash again.”

On some platforms, Skype now filters out the offending characters, yet it doesn’t work on all platforms and the characters still crash the application.

Microsoft have now fixed the bug and issued the following statement on their forums:

“Hello everyone

We are aware of a problem that was causing Skype clients to crash.  Our engineering teams worked hard to resolve this issue, and have released updates for all impacted Skype platforms. “

To resolve the issue, they suggest that you download the latest version of skype from www.skype.com/download and install it on your device. You don’t need to uninstall the old version first though.

Thank you to VentureBeat for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Skype

Google Talk for Windows to be Killed Off Tomorrow

Chat application Google Talk for Windows is to permanently close tomorrow, to be usurped indefinitely by Google Hangouts, Google’s more advanced instant messaging and video chat service.

Any user planning to move from Google Talk for Windows, a standalone app, to Google Hangouts now needs to use the Chrome browser. However, there are plenty of holdouts still using Google Talk, preferring the old software to Hangouts due to advantages with file-sharing and appearing invisible. Those people will still be able to use Google Talk functionality, but through third-party applications, such as Trillian and Pidgin, though Google says it cannot guarantee users’ privacy or security.

Source: N4GM

WhatsApp Involved in Almost Half of All Italian Divorces

A new article by GlobalPost says that nearly half of all divorce proceedings in Italy refer to WhatsApp.

The Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers told the publication that WhatsApp is cited more so than any other source of information that acts as the cause of a divorce. They say that partners more than often find evidence of infidelity via snooping on their other half’s sent and received messages in the app.

“No one is saying WhatsApp is the cause of the divorces,” says Gian Ettore Gassani, president of the Matrimonial Lawyers group. “The leading cause is infidelity, but WhatsApp is now the most common way for one partner to discover infidelity in the other.”

Interestingly, they also say that men more so than women are the ones that get caught out due to WhatsApp, as females are more quick to delete sensitive messages than males.

“Men are most likely to save messages or photos from lovers they can go back to,” Gassani says. “Women are more likely to take one look and then delete.”

The article is an interesting look into the blend of traditional Italian attitudes towards infidelity with modern communication technology.

Source: GlobalPost

WhatsApp Introduces End-to-End Encryption

In a move applauded by privacy advocates, instant messaging service WhatsApp is introducing end-to-end encryption of user data on Android devices, meaning that any messages sent through the app cannot be decrypted by anyone, making it impossible for government agencies to access that data by any means.

The encryption protocol has been provided by Open Whisper Systems, a collaborative open source project. The protocol is still a work-in-progress, so doesn’t yet work for group messaging or interactions that contain videos or photos, but Open Whisper Systems promise to address these issues in future. Open Whisper Systems announced the news on their blog, saying,  For the past three years, we’ve been developing a modern, open source, strong encryption protocol for asynchronous messaging systems, designed to make seamless end-to-end encrypted messaging possible.

“Today we’re excited to publicly announce a partnership with WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in the world, to incorporate the TextSecure protocol into their clients and provide end-to-end encryption for their users by default.”

Source: ars technica

BlackBerry Adds Stickers to its BBM Instant Messaging Applications To Attract Users

One of the best features of an instant messaging application, besides all of your friends using it, is stickers. Just like Viber, it appears that BBM is starting to offer this service to its users.

BBM is planning to take advantage of the oversized emoticons phenomena to attract more people into using its BBM service, deploying stickers for users to send and receive in their conversations. The packs have names such as “CosCat”, “Gilbert’s Tales” and “Bubble Bot” and will be sold directly from the application, containing around 20 to 25 images a pack.

It is also said that some stickers packs may be available for free, including one of that reworks existing BBM emoticons for the larger new medium. BlackBerry stated that the stickers will enter a closed beta today, however no information about when they will be available to everyone or how to join in was given. Also, BBM received a recent update which added a number of features to Android and iOS as well, including voice calls, support for its Channels feature, location sharing, and attachments.

BlackBerry is moving towards providing a great quality application, full of features, and as of recent stickers as well. However, what it really needs now is users.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of The Verge

Yahoo Malware Attack Reportedly More Far-Reaching Than Previously Thought

Yahoo has reported a while back that on January the 3rd, their website has been infected with ad-related malware content. The FoxIT security company reported that the UK, France and Romania were the countries who suffered heavily due to this attack, but further details prove more to it.

First of all, Yahoo stated this Friday that the attack took palace between December 27th and January 3rd, not only on January the 3rd as previously thought. This widens the window of malware infection, and also confirms the fact that more than 2 million PCs may have been infected. Also, Yahoo said that people outside Europe may have been hit by the infected ads before they could do something about it. Anyone using the Yahoo Mail or IM services during that time frame may have been served malware which exploits vulnerabilities in Java and had installed a variety of malware-related software.

Another security company based in the United States called Light Cyber said that one of the malware present in Yahoo’s ad network was designed to link infected PCs and form a Bitcoin mining operation. Other exploits involve theft of usernames and passwords, disabling antivirus software and remote control of computers. To be noted is that Mac computers or mobile devices were not harmed by the software, only PCs, laptops and netbooks running on Windows-based operating systems were vulnerable to the attack.

Yahoo has released some precautionary steps to take in order to prevent and detect further infection by the malware in cause:

Thank you Cnet for providing us with this information