File-sharing company BitTorrent is at work on a chat product that makes use of a number of security techniques that effectively render it invisible to anyone trying to eavesdrop on your conversations. (Yes, like the NSA.)
It’s called BitTorrent Chat, and it relies on a decentralized, serverless system to shuttle messages back and forth across the internet.
The major weakness with nearly all existing chat products is that they’re built upon a central server that governs the flow of data. If one can access this server, that person can have a field day reading messages and identifying the people involved. But given BitTorrent’s experience building strong decentralized software, this seems like an obvious application for the company to pursue.
The company explains the strengths of its system:
With BitTorrent Chat, there aren’t any “usernames” per se. You don’t login in the classic sense. Instead, your identity is a cryptographic key pair. To everyone on the BitTorrent Chat network at large, you ARE your public key. This means that, if you want, you can use Chat without telling anyone who you are. Two users only need to exchange each other’s public keys to be able to chat.
Using public key encryption provides us with a number of benefits. The most obvious is the ability to encrypt messages to your sender using your private key and their public key. But in public key encryption, if someone gains access to your private key, all of your past (and future) messages could be decrypted and read. In Chat, we are implementing forward secrecy. Every time you begin a conversation with one of your contacts, a temporary encryption key will be generated. Using each of your keypairs, this key will be generated for this one conversation and that conversation only, and then deleted forever.
The short version of the story: because there is no proper “foundation” on which BitTorrent Chat will sit, there’s not really a way to exploit it. The users will be the foundation!
If you want to get on board, you can sign up for the private alpha here. Edward Snowden fans, rejoice.
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