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Popular Messaging Apps ‘Failing to Protect Users’ Privacy’ claims Amnesty International

If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise as our communications are under constant threat from cybercriminals and spying by state authorities

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November 2, 2016: Amnesty looked at eleven of the most popular messaging apps and found big variations in security. Facebook messenger and WhatsApp were best with a score of 73/100.

“If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise. The reality is that our communications are under constant threat from cyber criminals and spying by state authorities. Young people, the most prolific sharers of personal details and photos over apps like Snapchat, are especially at risk,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights Team.

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He added, “WhatsApp uses a very strong encryption. It does a very good job by telling people what kind of encryption it chooses and how it protects people’s information.”

Conversely Skype, owned by software giant Microsoft, and Snapchat performed poorly. Elsayed-Ali said, “They don’t use end-to-end encryption which is essentially a kind of encryption that means only the sender and the receiver is able to read the messages.”

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Snapchat disputes Amnesty conclusions and says privacy and security are what it calls foundation values. Microsoft told VOA in a statement, “Skype uses encryption and a range of other technical security measures and we protect people’s privacy through legal challenges advocacy and strong policies to notify customers when we receive government requests for data.”

Amnesty says it’s not only personal privacy at stake. According to Elsayed-Ali, “Journalists all over the world who are trying to uncover corruption trial and abuses by government, activists who are resisting repression in their countries are being actively sought out by their governments who are trying to find their information to disrupt their work and often to imprison them or prosecute them.”

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Items like cars and home appliances are increasingly been connected to the internet, the so called Internet of Things (IoT). According to Amnesty, “There will be sensors everywhere with the Internet of things, maybe tens or hundreds of billions of sensors in our homes and in our cities. Listening in, collecting information all the time and if we don’t protect privacy now with things like very strong encryption, then there will be no privacy in the future.”

Bottom of the Amnesty’s rankings was the Chinese firm Tencent which owns the messaging apps WeChat and QQ. It scored zero out of 100. (VOA)

 

  • mercerie

    Apparently, they don’t know very much about privacy. If the did, they would have picked Threema, which doesn’t generate metadata and can be used without a phone number.

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Hike Sticker Chat to Now Encrypt Users’ Data with End-to-End Encryption, Auto Backup

Launched in April, Hike Sticker Chat app uses stickers as a foundation and aims to reduce people's dependency on the keyboard

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Launched in April, Hike Sticker Chat app uses stickers as a foundation and aims to reduce people's dependency on the keyboard. Wikimedia Commons

Betting big on safeguarding data along with seamless backup, Hike Sticker Chat — a dedicated platform aimed to deliver a sticker-centric chat experience — will now encrypt users’ data with nearly military-grade encryption, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder and CEO, Hike said here on Thursday.

Along with advanced encryption, the company has also introduced auto backup, to make switching from one device to another easier without manually backing up or restoring user data.

“As part of the update, we’re encrypting data with 128 bit advanced encryption standard (AES) and 2048-bit RSA which is one step away from military-grade encryption. All data on the platform is backed up on our own Cloud. We do that to keep our data extra secure.

hike sticker chat, encryption
Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Hike Messenger, India captured during the Session:”Conversation with Karan” at the India Economic Summit 2017 in New Delhi, India, Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell. Wikimedia Commons

“The encryption is happening for both data in transit and in rest, which means that if I’m exchanging data back and forth, the data in transit is encrypted and even if it is sitting on our servers, it is still encrypted there,” Kavin who is son of business tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal, told IANS in a freewheeling chat. This level of encryption is even not available on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, even as the company says user data is end-to-end encrypted.

When asked how a user would back up messages, Mittal said: “They don’t need to. The data transfer happens just as a user enters their existing mobile number and then enter the four-digit PIN they receive on the new device”. Once a user logs in on a new device, they’re automatically logged out of the old device once the data becomes available on the new hardware.

“The auto backup will now make the whole backup and restore process a thing of the past and it is actually a painful process people have to undergo. The auto backup on our platform is synced all the time. No matter if you change the phone or reinstall the application, your data is synced within seconds,” Kavin explained.

hike sticker chat, encryption
The company is also launching Hike Web which, unlike WhatsApp Web, lets users enter their mobile number and then type four-digit PIN they receive on their device to access the platform on web. Pixabay

The company is also launching Hike Web which, unlike WhatsApp Web, lets users enter their mobile number and then type four-digit PIN they receive on their device to access the platform on web. WhatsApp Web still requires users to sign in by scanning a QR code on their device. The web version is currently available in public beta and Hike is slated to roll out updates to bring new features on a regular basis.

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Launched in April, Hike Sticker Chat app uses stickers as a foundation and aims to reduce people’s dependency on the keyboard. Currently, there are 40,000 stickers available in more than 40 Indian languages and dialects and the company is aiming to introduce more regional languages. According to Mittal, Hindi is currently the most sought-after language on the platform.

“We aim to have 100,000 stickers across various languages by the end of the year and to cover a larger percentage of every major Indian language’s vocabulary,” added Kavin. The platform currently has over one million Weekly Active Users (WAUs) who spend 33 minutes inside the app, exchanging over 55 million stickers weekly. (IANS)