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Encrypted e-mail grows in popularity

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People have the responsibility to guard their personal data despite a South African law that offers some protection. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)People have the responsibility to guard their personal data despite a South African law that offers some protection. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Washington – A new push to encrypt e-mail, keeping messages free from government snooping, is gaining momentum.

One new e-mail service promising “end-to-end” encryption launched on Friday, and others are being developed while major services such as Google Gmail and Yahoo Mail have stepped up security measures.

A major catalyst for e-mail encryption were revelations about widespread online surveillance in documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

“A lot of people were upset with those revelations, and that coalesced into this effort,” said Jason Stockman, a co-developer of ProtonMail, a new encrypted e-mail service which launched on Friday with collaboration of scientists from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the European research lab Cern.

Stockman said ProtonMail aims to be as user-friendly as the major commercial services, but with extra security, and with its servers located in Switzerland to make it more difficult for US law enforcement to access.

Free account

Encryption is a tool that can help dissident activists avoid detection in places like China or Iran, but the movement has also gained credence in the US among those who want to stay clear of snooping from the NSA or other intelligence services.

“Our vision is to make encryption and privacy mainstream by making it easy to use,” Stockman said. “There’s no installation. Everything happens behind the scenes automatically.”

Even though e-mail encryption using special codes or keys, a system known as PGP, has been around for two decades, “it was so complicated”, and did not gain widespread adoption, Stockman said.

After testing over the past few months, ProtonMail went public using a “freemium” model – a basic account will be free with some added features for a paid account.

“As our users from China, Iran, Russia, and other countries around the world have shown us in the past months, ProtonMail is an important tool for freedom of speech and we are happy to finally be able to provide this to the whole world,” the company said in a blog post.

Google and Yahoo recently announced efforts to encrypt their e-mail communications, but some specialists say the effort falls short.

“These big companies don’t want to encrypt your stuff because they spy on you, too,” said Bruce Schneier, a well-known cryptographer and author who is chief technology officer for CO3 Systems.

“Hopefully, the NSA debate is creating incentives for people to build more encryption.”

Technical hurdles

Stockman said that with services like Gmail, even if data is encrypted, “they have the key right next to it… if you have the key and lock next to each other, so it’s pretty much useless.”

By locating in Switzerland, ProtonMail hopes to avoid the legal woes of services like Lavabit – widely believed to be used by Snowden – which shut down rather than hand over data to the US government, and which now faces a contempt of court order.

Even if a Swiss court ordered data to be turned over, Stockman said, “We would hand over piles of encrypted data. We don’t have a key. We never see the password.”

Lavabit founder Ladar Levison meanwhile hopes to launch a new service with other developers in a coalition known as the Dark Mail Alliance.

Levison said he hopes to have a new encrypted e-mail system in testing within a few months and widely available later this year.

“The goal is to make it ubiquitous, so people don’t have to turn it on,” he said.

But he added that the technical hurdles are formidable, because the more user-friendly the system becomes, “the more susceptible it is to a sophisticated attacker with fake or spoofed key information”.

Levison said he hopes Dark Mail will become a new open standard that can be adopted by other e-mail services.

Encrypted mobile phone

Jon Callas, a cryptographer who developed the PGP standard and later co-founded the secure communications firm Silent Circle, cited challenges in making a system that is both secure and ubiquitous.

“If you are a bank you have to have an e-mail system that complies with banking regulations,” Callas said, which could allow, for example, certain e-mails to be subject to regulatory or court review.

“Many of the services on the internet started with zero security. We want to start with a system that is totally secure and let people dial it down.”

The new e-mail system would complement Silent Circle’s existing secure messaging system and encrypted mobile phone, which was launched earlier this year.

“If we start competing for customers on the basis of maximum privacy, that’s good for everybody,” Callas said.

source:http://www.news24.com/Technology/News/Encrypted-e-mail-grows-in-popularity-20140518

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FACEBOOK IS TESTING ITS VERY OWN DATING APP

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Yes, Facebook Dating is a real thing. And we may have just received a sneak peek.

Jane Manchun Wong — an app researcher who’s spotted Facebook features in the past, like Talent Show — posted photos from what she claims is an internal test of Facebook Dating.

 

The company wouldn’t say whether these pics are the real deal, although it did confirm it’s testing Facebook Dating internally.

Two months ago, at its F8 developer conference, Facebook shared that it was developing a dating app. Aspiring yenta Mark Zuckerberg explained it was “going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not hookups.”

Later, on its blog, Facebook dished out a few more details: “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”

From Wong’s photos, it looks like the app will let you prevent your current Facebook friends from seeing your dating profile, thus avoiding potential embarrassment. It’ll also offer a variety of gender options, including trans man, trans woman, and non-binary.

No word on when, exactly, Facebook Dating will become available to the public. Guess you’ll just have to make do with Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Happn, Grindr, Hinge, and the thousands of other dating apps out there in the meantime.

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WHATSAPP MESSAGES AND SENDERS CAN BE ALTERED AFTER YOU RECEIVED THEM, SAY RESEARCHERS

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Security researchers have discovered that it’s possible for hackers to change both the content and the sender of a WhatsApp message after you’ve received it …

This includes the ability to change quoted messages, to make it appear you said something you didn’t.

CNET reports that the possibility was discovered by Check Point Software Technologies.

The firm] found that hackers can create a hacked version of the app and alter a quoted message (a past one that someone is replying directly one) to change the content or sender.

The hacker would, however, need to be part of the chat, so the vulnerability mostly applies to group chats.

WhatsApp told the NYT that it was not aware of the technique being used in the wild, and a cure would be worse than the problem.

One solution would be to create transcripts of every message exchange to verify the accuracy of every quote. Creating such a transcript is a significant privacy risk because those accounts of what people wrote to each other must be stored somewhere, the company said.

All WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that only those within a chat would be able to exploit the loophole. Storing a transcript would effectively mean removing that end-to-end encryption.

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WHATSAPP INTRODUCES GROUP CALLS FOR UP TO 4 PEOPLE

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Times after Messenger launched the video call option, WhatsApp rolls out its new feature for conference video calling. The new WhatsApp feature is now available to facilitate the users around the globe on iOS and Android.

Distinctly, the group calling feature supports up to four people at the same time.

The functionality is pretty simple: To start the video call with one of the contacts, a button on the top right corner of the screen will let the user add another participant to call.

Once the call gets connected, an add icon appears, on the top right, above the names of the recipients. However, if the third user accepts the call their names will be separated with a comma. The feature can connect up to four people on a video call, all at the same time.

Noteworthy is the fact that this feature only works on the latest version of WhatsApp.

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