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Tor Project Launches Secure Encrypted Messenger App

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The Onion Router (Tor) project has released the first beta version of Tor Messenger, an open-source instant messenger client which brings the same level of privacy and security as the network. Tor was initially designed to conceal a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance through a volunteer network

The new app is designed for simplicity and privacy; it automatically encrypts the content of messages, thereby eliminating the possibility of network surveillance or eavesdropping. Tor Messenger integrates “Off-the-Record” (OTR) protocol to route messages over the Tor Network, the same way Tor secues web data on its browser.

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“With Tor Messenger, your chat is encrypted and anonymous…so it is hidden from snoops, whether they are the government of a foreign country or a company trying to sell you boots,” Tor public policy director Kate Krauss wrote to WIRED in a Tor Messenger conversation.

The app is also compatible with the same chat protocols used by Facebook and Google accounts, allowing users to implement the app to existing chatting and social media platforms. This allows millions of users to download the software and integrate it into their existing applications and encrypt their messages by tunneling it through Tor’s volunteer network worldwide.

Tor developers have tried implementations of a variety of protocols including Pidgin, XMPP and Instantbird. The team decided to choose Instantbird due to its graphical user interface and its compatibility with Tor Browser.

“[Instatbird’s] transport protocols are written in a memory-safe language (JavaScript); it has a graphical user interface and already supports many natural languages; and it’s a XUL application, which means we can leverage both the code (Tor Launcher) and in-house expertise that the Tor Project has developed working on Tor Browser with Firefox,” states the Tor blog. “It also has an active and vibrant software developer community that has been very responsive and understanding of our needs.”

Since mid-2014, the Bitcoin community has seen an emergence of Bitcoin-based automatic encryption messaging applications and cryptocurrency social media apps. However, many of these applications failed to appeal to the masses and were criticized for their inefficiencies and lack of implementations of necessary security protocols to encrypt instant messaging.