Fueled by the recent NSA leaks brought forth by Edward Snowden regarding PRISM, along with other government eavesdropping programs that have since been brought to light, Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and a small team have begun work on what I hope becomes a de facto chat client: Hemlis.
What sets Hemlis apart isn't so much that it offers end-to-end encryption, but the fact that it does so via an app with beautiful aesthetics. The technology behind Hemlis includes the reliable XMPP chat protocol along with PGP - the latter a common email component for privacy buffs. Ultimately, the client will be released for both iOS and Android, but I'm hoping that the project will prove successful enough where the developers might want to plan a desktop version as well.
The developer's put the goals of Hemlis best:
"What we don't love ... is that private communication has more or less turned into an open stream for companies and governments to listen into. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google have been forced to open up their systems and hand out information about their users. At the same time they have been forbidden to tell anyone about it! We're building a message app where no one can listen in, not even us. We would rather close down the service before letting anyone in. Secrets are only secrets if they are secret."
There are a couple of concerns I have about Hemlis, but ultimately, they're rather minor. First is the fact that even with encryption, the government will know if a chat transaction takes place. By all appearances, Hemlis is not a decentralized service, but acts similar to Apple's iMessage where each end can encrypt and decrypt. A decentralized implementation has its drawbacks though, such as the expected inability to use normal usernames (a la BitCoin), but it's still something to be aware of. It's been revealed that if you so much as encrypt any sort of communication, you automatically get flagged by the government. Yes, it's really that simple.
The solution? Everyone needs to encrypt. Seems like a pipedream, but if it were the case, then it'd become infeasible for the government to retain petabytes of data when it'd need a supercomputer to attempt at decrypting just one piece at a time. It could still keep the actual records, but again, if everyone is encrypting, those records are going to be of minimal use.
I look forward to Hemlis getting here, but again, I'd be happier if desktop variants were in the works.
Love to see this pass through and become a app on iOS. Although I did hear of the DEA having trouble with Apples iMessage decryption awhile back which made a smile come to my face.
very nice article and very informative
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