Sep 26 2015

Secure Instant Messaging App Selection

Category: Mobile Computing,SecurityTeknovis @ 07:23

I was searching for a new secure instant messaging app, and I previously described my requirements in Secure Instant Messaging App Requirements. My search has finished, and I have a winner :) Let me explain how I got to this point :)

There are lots of messaging apps available that claim to be secure. Indeed, they may well be depending on what is meant by secure. My requirements were very clear, so it was relatively easy to reduce the field to an initial short list of four (in alphabetical order):

All of these apps are covered in the Secure Messaging Scorecard by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I found that was a very useful resource.

Surespot was the first to be eliminated. This was an easy decision, because there are rumours that it has been compromised. I am not sure that I believe all of these rumours, but they are enough to scare me away! See any of the following:

Telegram was next to be eliminated. It has several good and bad features, and the main ones of interest to me are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Available for desktops Founded by, and run by, Russians
Provides end-to-end encryption, but only for secret chats Group chats do not use end-to-end encryption
Scored 4/7 in normal use, and 7/7 for secret chats Uses phone numbers
Available for both Android and iOS There are some concerns over its use of a very custom protocol

It was fairly to easy to eliminate Telegram, because I do not like the way that it only provides end-to-end encryption in the secure chat mode. It would be too difficult for me to educate my target audience in the differences between the various types of chats.

This left Open Whisper Systems and Threema, and I spent the most time studying both of these. Obviously I looked at their respective web sites, and I also found the following two resources very useful:

The main good and bad features of Open Whisper Systems in my opinion are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Open source Based in the US
Includes voice support Funded by the US government
Great endorsements (Bruce Schneier, Edward Snowden) Previous links with Twitter, and current vague links with Whatsapp/Facebook
Scored 7/7 Linked to the device’s SIM
Provides end-to-end encryption (using elliptic curves) Integrates with the native messaging app
Provides end-to-end forward secrecy
Includes identity verification
Available for both Android and iOS

Similarly, the main good and bad features of Threema in my opinion are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Provides end-to-end encryption (using elliptic curves) Does not include voice support
Provides end-to-end encryption for group chats No desktop version
Cryptography provided using a respected library (NaCl) Not free
Scored 5/7 Does not provide end-to-end forward secrecy
Not linked to the device’s SIM, so it can be used on devices without SIMs
Hosted in Switzerland
Standalone app
Includes identity verification
Available for both Android and iOS

Of course I realise that some of my opinions are very subjective (such as the nationalities of the people behind them). I am also aware that I must have a certain amount of trust in the app provider, and that no secure app in the world can compensate for a compromised operating system!

So what app did I ultimately select? Threema :) So far I have been extremely happy with my choice!

However, I have been impressed by Open Whisper Systems, and I am considering using it for work purposes. (I like to keep my personal apps separate from my work apps.)

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Aug 16 2015

Secure Instant Messaging App Requirements

Category: Mobile Computing,SecurityTeknovis @ 22:18

Lately I have been on a mission to find an instant messaging app for my mobile phone. The initial plan is to use it for personal purposes with immediate family members, and I am in the position of being able to move them all to a new app. I am less concerned about less immediate family and friends.

If there is a suitable app, then I want to be able to use it for work purposes also.

The obvious choice is WhatsApp, but I detest it in principle for a few reasons:

  • It is owned by Facebook, which I do not use – nor do I want to use it!
  • It is tied to a specific device, and it uses the phone number as an identifier. This is such an outdated approach!
  • I am very sceptical of its security model (i.e., there is none), and I dislike allowing an entity in the middle of my communications to have access to them!

In fairness to WhatsApp, the user interface is very polished and easy to use!

So my main mandatory requirements are:

  • Easy to use
  • Uses well established cryptography
  • Uses end-to-end encryption
  • Not dependent upon a mobile phone number (and hence capable of running on devices without SIMs)
  • Capable of sending and receiving photos
  • Supports group chats (less than 10 people)
  • Available for both Android and iOS
  • Trustworthy (whatever that means!)

Nice to have features include:

  • Available for Windows desktops
  • General verification features

Aspects that do not concern me:

  • Having to pay (a reasonable) once-off fee for it
  • Voice call features
  • Corporate features
  • Recalling messages
  • Remotely deleting messages
  • Establishing secure communications with people that I do not meet in person

I will create a new post in the near future describing what apps I eliminated, and what app(s) I decided to use!

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Jul 08 2012

The End of the Patent Wars?

Category: Internet,PatentsTeknovis @ 09:27

I do not think so, but there have been some very interesting development this weekend!

Firstly, Facebook and Yahoo have come to a mutual agreement to share and cross license their patents! See Facebook and Yahoo settle patent and form ad alliance for more details.

Secondly, the UN has decided to intervene by hosting a summit for some of the companies currently involved in the patent wars. I do not know how successful this will be, but I think that it cannot hurt to try to improve the current situation! See Patent war talks to be hosted by UN agency to protect innovation for more details on this story.

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May 22 2012

Unemployable Marketing Graduates

Category: Internet,Third LevelTeknovis @ 20:55

There is another indictment of  our failing third level education system described in Digital Marketing Institute says Ireland has ‘unemployable’ marketing graduates.

This time it relates to marketing graduates, and their lack of digital marketing skills.

The institute’s Ian Dodson said that 100% of marketing jobs now involve digital marketing, but that just 10% of third level graduates have those skills.

I think that digital marketing should be a mandatory requirement!

“Unfortunately, third level students are coming out, not just with poor digital literacy in Office applications, but with woeful levels of literacy when it comes to using the more modern tools and technologies, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to promote and market business,” he added.

I often think that academics in Irish universities become lazy, and simply regurgitate the same material despite it often being many years out of date!

It really makes a farce out of the government promoting Ireland as a knowledge economy :|

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May 14 2012

Brazilian Clothes Hangers and Facebook

Category: Internet,M2M ComputingTeknovis @ 20:36

I read a fascinating article today about a Brazilian clothes shop that is using clothes hangers that display the number of “likes” that the clothes items have received on Facebook. The article is Brazilian store uses hangars that tell customers how many people like the clothes online.

This is one of the most imaginative M2M ideas that I have seen to date! I can definitely see this appealing to the Facebook generation of clothes shoppers!


Apr 10 2012

Facebook Buys Instagram

Category: Business,Mobile ComputingTeknovis @ 20:39

I just learnt that Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, according to Facebook Buys Instagram for $1 Billion!

Wow! I am surprised by the price! I am also surprised that Facebook are interested in Instagram!

I do not use either service!

Instagram positively annoys me when I come across people using it to tweet photos!

Facebook itself does not annoy me, but its users annoy me :( Several times recently I have been asked to look at some content (either marketing material via an email list from a company that that I buy from, or from a personal contact who asks me in person), only to find that a Facebook account is required to view the content. No – I am not going to log into Facebook just to see your latest advert!

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Apr 08 2012

Popularity of Pinterest

Category: Entrepreneurship,Infographic,InternetTeknovis @ 18:06

It seems impossible to spend any time online these days without hearing about Pinterest. It certainly seems to be going from strength to strength, and it is now the third most popular social networking site according to Pinterest is third most popular social site after Facebook and Twitter.

I admit that I have not used it yet. I intend to try it, but at the moment I do not really see what the attraction is! Pinterest’s first investor explains this attraction in Pinterest’s First Investor Explains the Secret to the Startup’s Success, but I still do not get it!

This week I came across this very nice infographic in Flowtown Infographic: Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? that explains Pinterest’s addictiveness (click image to see larger version):

Why is Pinterest so Addictive? (Copyright Flowtown)

Why is Pinterest so Addictive? (Copyright Flowtown)

(There are some other very nice infographics on that website also!)

I think that I should give Pinterest a try!

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Apr 05 2012

Interesting Skype Ads

Category: InternetTeknovis @ 22:23

I came across some interesting Skype ads in Skype slams Facebook and Twitter in ad campaign tonight.

It is interesting that the ads are so focused on Facebook and Twitter!

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Mar 26 2012

Google Versus Facebook as Employers

Category: Infographic,InternetTeknovis @ 17:39

I came across this interesting infographic in Job Wars: How Google Stacks Up Against Facebook over the weekend:

Google Versus Facebook (Copyright Mashable)

Google Versus Facebook (Copyright Mashable)


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Mar 14 2012

Stupid Application of Stupid Law

Category: InternetTeknovis @ 00:02

I read Teen charged over Facebook post this evening, and frankly I am amazed at the stupidity of this charge! (It is a very short article, so I will include it here.)

A teenager has been charged after making comments on Facebook about the deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan last week.

Azhar Ahmed (19), posted the comments on his profile page and has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence, according to West Yorkshire Police.

A police spokesman said Mr Ahmed, of Fir Avenue, Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, was bemoaning the level of attention the British soldiers who died in a bomb blast last week received compared to Afghan civilians who have died in the war.

Mr Ahmed will appear at Dewsbury Magistrates’ court on March 20th.

Making prosecutions against teenagers based upon Facebook comments seems extremely petty to me! Teenagers make stupid comments (it is part of being a teen), and any adult with a bit of sense would just ignore them! Crime must really be low in the UK if this is what the police spend time investigating!

Secondly, without seeing his original comments, his reported comments do not appear racist to me!

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