Yesterday Open WhisperSystems released the new and highly anticipated version of TextSecure with data channel support. For me, this is one of the most important events related to cryptography and privacy we’ve seen in several years.
TextSecure is a text message asynchronous communications app. It’s totally free and open source software released under the terms of the GPLv3, both the client and server. In previous versions, the communication backend were SMS messages. Yesterday’s release can use the data channel, that is, your mobile data plan, which in many cases means reduced costs for users. The user interface has been improved. TextSecure is today the most prominent examples of cryptography done right. It could barely be easier to use. As Moxie Marlinspike mentions in yesterday’s blog entry, one of their goals was to bring crypto to the masses. No doubt this release helps normalize crypto usage worldwide, which is fantastic news. iOS and desktop clients are in the works.
Technically speaking, I can only praise the app. Messages are encrypted end to end. Servers don’t have access to the message contents. Furthermore, it has an optional feature to store messages encrypted on your device in an attempt to keep them safe should your phone be physically compromised. This can be changed on the fly at any moment. It can import your SMS conversations and history during the setup phase, and act as the default SMS app if you wish, providing opportunistic message encryption if your recipient is a TextSecure user too. Its crypto foundation is solid and praised, contrary to alternatives like Telegram.
The new release appears in the perfect moment. After WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook and after suffering a 4-hours outage that prompted many to start looking for possible alternatives. I started using it yesterday and will promote its usage among friends and family. I suggest you give it a try and do the same if you think it works well.
My most sincere public congratulations to the TextSecure team. Using it together with the VoIP application RedPhone, by the same authors, could mean your mobile communications are all private, secure and as convenient as always, starting today.